No one expects…
Preconceptions – they do keep creeping in no matter how many times past experiences have reminded me how misguided they can be. And especially so when a jazz master is involved. I should have learned by now that Jack DeJohnette will always surprise – and keep on surprising.
So let’s just say when I saw these names on an ECM cover and the instrumental line-up – drums, saxophone, bass – I wasn’t expecting it to sound like this. Of course, I’m not sure what I was expecting – something more earnest, more difficult, more strenuous, more intellectual perhaps?
So what do we have? Well, in addition to drums Jack plays piano and uses electronic percussion, Ravi plays tenor, soprano and sopranino saxophones, and Matthew plays electric bass and also electronics.
This album rarely sounds like a conventional sax trio one – the inclusion of electric bass, on which Garrison often plays chordal accompaninment, the occasional use of piano, the inclusion of an electronic percussion pulse on the title track, just the creative way the three musicians change places and roles in the music, all these keep the sound mercurial. All three players are in superb form.
There are two three-way original compositions, two by Jack, one by Jack and Ravi, and then we have Alabama, the tune Ravi’s father John wrote and which Matthew’s father Jimmy played bass on, the Miles Davis/Bill Evans classic, Blue In Green, and, in honour of the late Maurice White, Earth Wind & Fire’s Serpentine Fire.
There is an element of looking back – especially and appropriately on Alabama – but mainly there is loads of looking ahead. Without using any of those (easy?) techniques that shout contemporaneity – hip-hop beats, for example – this sounds like one of the most thoroughly modern albums of the year. It’s also equally “deep” in a spiritual, searching way, and “light” in that its seriousness is very lightly worn. These three may be saying big things but they are having a damn fine time doing it.
They have three, no four, no five secret weapons – a “Spanish Inquisition” of a record.
Categories: CD review