Jack DeJohnette :: Biography

Since Jack DeJohnette's collaboration with Charles Lloyd Quartet in mid-sixties he's been engaged by Miles Davis to replace Tony Williams in Miles' band. A classical piano graduate, he was one of three drummers playing on Miles "Bitches Brew."

DeJohnette stayed with Miles for three years and then left to form his own band. Since then his musical career has been partitioned into work as a sideman (fitting into any kind of band) and as a leader of his own groups. The first of them is called Compost when Jack recorded for Columbia and then for Prestige.

When Jack moved to ECM he established the group Directions. The next one was New Directions with Lester Bowie and the last, Special Edition, was founded in 1979. Special Edition band lasted to the present despite the changes of musicians and music styles. Also the music changes itself - from an acoustic sound in the early days (with David Murray, John Purcell, Chico Freeman and others) to electric stuff in the 80s and today (with Gary Thomas, Greg Osby, Lonnie Plaxico and others).

In the early '70s DeJohnette worked as instant drummer for CTI Records. After making recordings with Freddie Hubbard, Joe Farrell, George Benson and other musicians working for CTI he moved to ECM Records where he stayed for ten years.

Jack's engagement with ECM Records from 1974 to 1984 seems to have been the most exciting of all. This cooperation is marked with ten solo albums and many sideman recordings (including widely known Jarrett/Peacock/DeJohnette trio).

His last ECM record called "Album Album" became "Album of the Year" in the Annual Down Beat Readers' Poll for 1985. Then he moved to Impulse/MCA and his albums reached the top. "Audio-Visualscapes" was "Album of the Year" in the in Annual "Down Beat Critics Poll" for 1989. "Parallel Realities" with Pat Metheny and Herbie Hancock became a commercial success (Album of the Year in Japan).

DeJohnette continued to work with Special Edition into the 1990s, but did not limit himself to that. In 1990 he toured in a quartet consisting of himself, Herbie Hancock, Pat Metheny, and his long-time collaborator Holland, and released the Parallel Realities CD with this group the same year. In 1992 he released a major collaborative record, Music for the Fifth World, which was inspired by studies with a Native American elder and brought him together musically with players like Vernon Reid and John Scofield. He had also, during the 1980s, resumed playing piano, which led to his 1994 tour as an unaccompanied pianist. He also began working again with Abercrombie and Holland, reviving the Gateway trio

In 2004 he was nominated for a Grammy award for his work on Keith Jarrett's live album The Out-of-Towners, and continued to work with that group into 2005. In the next few years DeJohnette would begin and lead three new projects, the first of which was the Latin Project consisting of percussionists Giovanni Hidalgo and Luisito Quintero, reedman Don Byron, pianist Edsel Gomez, and bassist Jerome Harris. The other two new projects were the Jack DeJohnette Quartet, featuring Harris again alongside Danilo Perez and John Patitucci, and the Trio Beyond, a tribute to DeJohnette's friend Tony Williams and his trio Lifetime (consisting of Williams, Larry Young and John McLaughlin), featuring John Scofield and Larry Goldings. He also founded his own label, Golden Beams Productions, in 2005. That same year, he released Music in the Key of OM on his new label, an electronic album which he created for relaxing and meditative purposes on which he played synthesizer and resonating bells, and which was nominated for a Grammy in the Best New Age Album category. He continued to make albums as a leader and sideman throughout this period as well, one of which was The Elephant Sleeps But Still Remembers, a collaboration that documents the first meeting of DeJohnette and guitarist Bill Frisell in 2001 and led to another tour, with Frisell and Jerome Harris.

The next year Trio Beyond released Saudades, a live recording of a concert commemorating Tony Williams in London in 2004. In 2008 he toured with Bobby McFerrin, Chick Corea, and the Jarrett trio, and the next year won the Grammy Award for Best New Age Album with Peace Time.[20] In 2010 he founded the Jack DeJohnette Group, featuring Rudresh Mahanthappa on alto saxophone, David Fiuczynski on double-neck guitar, George Colligan on keyboards and piano, and long-time associate Jerome Harris on electric and acoustic bass guitars.

In 2012, DeJohnette released Sound Travels, which featured appearances by McFerrin, Quintero, Bruce Hornsby, Esperanza Spalding, Lionel Loueke, and Jason Moran. The same year, he was awarded an NEA Jazz Masters Fellowship for his "significant lifetime contributions have helped to enrich jazz and further the growth of the art form."

In 2016, Dejohnette collaborated with saxophonist Ravi Coltrane and Matthew Garrison on the ECM CD In Movement.

Dejohnette also appears on the 2016 album by Paul Simon called "Stranger to Stranger."


DeJohnette's style incorporates elements of jazz, free jazz, world music, and R&B, contributing to him being one of the most highly regarded and in-demand drummers. His drumming style has been called unique; one critic writes that he is not merely a drummer but a "percussionist, colourist and epigrammatic commentator mediating the shifting ensemble densities" and that "his drumming is always part of the music's internal construction." Modern Drummer magazine, in a 2004 interview, called DeJohnette's drumming "beyond technique."

DeJohnette calls himself an "abstract thinker" when it comes to soloing, saying that he puts "more weight on the abstract than, 'What were you thinking in bar 33?' I don't like to think that way. I can do it, but I like to be more in the flow." In terms of what he feels when he plays, DeJohnette said that when he plays, he goes "into an altered state, a different headspace. I plug into my higher self, into the cosmic library of ideas." He has remarked that he has to play with a lot of restraint when playing in Keith Jarrett's trio, in order "to play with the subtlety that the music requires."

For more information about Jack Dejohnette and for a complete Discography of his music, visit his website: http://jackdejohnette.com/.