Jack DeJohnette has remained one of jazz music’s most imaginative and inexhaustible drummers since his arrival on the scene as a member of Charles Lloyd’s quartet. The seeds of much of DeJohnette’s career were contained in that band. Lloyd’s group was flexible and open to influences from outside the insular jazz world, which certainly influenced the drummer’s overall musical outlook in years to come. In addition, keyboard player Keith Jarrett was a member of the same ensemble, and the two musicians’ careers became entwined to an essential degree over the years, in many different collaborations. As a member of Jarrett’s famous standards trio for the past 20 or so years, DeJohnette has been one third of one of the most influential and beloved ensembles since the original Bill Evans trio. His rarum collection is a fantastic opportunity to sample the wide variety of music in which this drummer has been a creative force.
“As a child I listened to all kinds of music and I never put them into categories” says Dejohnette of his varied work. “I studied classical piano and listened to opera, country and western music, rhythm and blues, jazz, swing, whatever. To me it was all music and great. I’ve kept that integrated feeling about music, all types of music, and just carried it with me, and I’ve maintained that feeling in spite of this habitual attempt to try and keep people pinned down to a certain style.”
Basically, DeJohnette’s rarum entry covers the latter half of the 1970s through 1984, with one track from 1971 and two from the 90s. The leadoff track, “Third World Anthem” comes from the 1984 release Album Album by Jack DeJohnette’s Special Edition. DeJohnette and bassist Rufus Reid hold down the rhythm section on this jaunty piece with an island folk melody feel—something like a breezy Albert Ayler. Saxophonists John Purcell and David Murray, along with tuba player Howard Johnson, provide the front line of the group, and it does sound like some kind of South American marching band, full of optimism and ebullient good spirits. “Jack In” fast forwards to 1997 and comes from DeJohnette’s album Oneness. Dejohnette plays drums and interacts with percussionist Don Alias to provide the basis for guitarist Jerome Harris and pianist Michael Cain. It’s a very ‘cool’ piece that slowly unfolds to reveal a high energy groove at its core that is sustained by DeJohnette and Alias. “Feelbes, Fables, and Ferns” is from guitarist Mick Goodrick’s album In Passing, recorded in 1978. Goodrick is joined by DeJohnette, bassist Eddie Gomez, and woodwind player John Surman, who has also collaborated with DeJohnette a few times. The piece is a great example of interactive ensemble playing, and DeJohnette likely included it because it demonstrates his ability to provide color and depth to a piece.
The earliest track on the disc is a duet with Jarrett taken from the album Rutta and Daitya. “Overture/Communion” is also notable for featuring Jarrett at the electric piano, an instrument he abandoned after his stint with Miles Davis’ high-powered electric band. Beginning meditatively, the piece soon moves into familiar Jarrett gospel-influenced territory, with the pianist applying a wah-wah pedal to draw some sounds from his Fender Rhodes that still sound righteously funky today.
The disc’s second half begins with the hypnotic “How’s Never” from the Gateway trio album Homecoming. Bassist Dave Holland also included this track, one of his compositions, on his rarum collection, and it is a perfect slice of groove-driven funk that is a highlight of all three participants’ (John Abercrombie is the guitarist) recorded careers. “Silver Hollow” comes from DeJonette’s 1978 recording New Directions. It features DeJohnette the composer and pianist along with Abercrombie on guitar, Eddie Gomez on bass, and the Art Ensemble of Chicago’s Lester Bowie in an especially beautiful muted trumpet performance. DeJohnette’s piano work is open-chorded and his work here bears the influence of Jarrett, but also pays homage to other pianists as well. There’s certainly no sense of ‘piano as a second instrument.’ When DeJohnette sits down at the instrument he approaches it with the same level of inventiveness and intensity as he does the drums.
DeJohnette concludes his rarum picks with two pieces from his album Pictures, recorded in 1976. “Picture 5” is a duet between DeJohnette and John Abercrombie on acoustic guitar. The piece has a Spanish flair and Abercrombie plays quite percussively, underlining DeJohnette’s punctuation, which eventually coalesces into a somewhat martial step. “Picture 6” features DeJohnette on piano and percussion, and it again reminds the listener that Jack DeJohnette, though known primarily as a drummer, is a consummate musician, bandleader, and composer who plays a variety of instruments and whose creativity seemingly acknowledges no boundaries.