Most musicologists agree that the piano is a percussive instrument as well as a melodic and harmonic instrument. Based on this widely accepted premise, the piano and the drum come from the same place.
NEA Jazz Master recipient and legendary jazz drummer Jack DeJohnette knows this as well as any musicologist, and probably better. For more than five decades, DeJohnette has been the rhythmic anchor behind some of the most innovative and groundbreaking jazz ever captured in the studio or created on stage. Along the way, he has collaborated with legends: Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Keith Jarrett, Pat Metheny and many others.
But even before he was a drummer, DeJohnette was a pianist. He took his first musical steps on piano as a child before switching to drums, but colleagues and fans who know him best also know him as a brilliant piano composer whose keyboard work has been featured on various recordings over the course of his career.
Jack DeJohnette the pianist steps into the spotlight alone in the spring of 2016 with the release of Return, the very first solo piano recording of his long and distinguished career. Scheduled for a vinyl-only release in April of 2016, on Newvelle Records, Return features two brand new compositions as well as reinterpretations of compositions recorded with earlier bands and projects.
“We are incredibly excited to be releasing this unique and sublime venture of Jack DeJohnette’s and can’t wait to share it with the world,” says Elan Mehler of Newvelle.
“Recording a solo piano project is a very challenging, because it’s just you,” DeJohnette says. “So I really had to think about the repertoire – what I would record, what would make sense. I wrote two new pieces, and I also played some of my earlier works that I had recorded previously with various ensembles. It was a challenge for me – and an exciting one – to play my own music in a new way. I didn’t want to be in competition with other musicians. I just wanted to make a statement with this record.”
Whatever the connection between drums and piano – percussion, melody, rhythm, harmony or all of the above – DeJohnette admits that he didn’t think about it too much when he went into the studio to lay down tracks in the making of Return. “I was just going for a mood, a feeling,” he says. “I didn’t try to intellectualize anything. I just wanted to take the music to a different space and let the spirit take me – and take the listener – wherever it wanted to go. It’s a collaboration of mind, body, soul and spirit. It’s a return to something basic and universal and beautiful.”