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Jazz great Jack DeJohnette speaks softly, carries big (drum) sticks

For Journal Register Newspapers

Posted: Thursday, January 31, 2013

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It's been 45 years since Jack DeJohnette stepped out of an already illustrious jazz career and released his first album as a band leader, "The DeJohnette Complex."

And that's news to...guess who?

"Yeah, I'm totally timeless, man. Until you say the numbers, it's like, 'Oh, really?' " says the Chicago-born DeJohnette, 70, who was named an NEA Jazz Master last year because his "significant lifetime contributions have helped to enrich jazz and further the growth of the art form."

"Sometimes I'll reflect on some of the great legends of jazz that I participated in helping and sharing and realizing their music. But I was inspired by people like Roscoe Mitchell and Richard Abrams, and then (John Coltrane), Eddie Harris, Miles (Davis), Sonny Rollins, Art Blakey...people who developed young talent and nurtured it and gave them a platform to do what they do.

"That's what I'm trying to do, too. I want to help (jazz) have a future."

DeJohnette -- a drummer and pianist who's logged tenures with Coltrane, Davis, Rollins and Keith Jarrett, among many others -- is doing that these days with his own Jack DeJohnette Group, a rotating quintet that helped record his most recent album, 2012's "Sound Travels," and this weekend will feature Detroit-born saxophonist Tim Ries, who's also part of the Rolling Stones regular horn section.

"Its all about trust, finding musicians you can trust to think for themselves and play the music," explains DeJohnette, who has a number of projects on tap including a new trio with Ravi Coltrane and Matthew Garrison. "I don't want to have to tell them what to play. My music is written in a way so that the players can realize my intentions but still maintain their own identity.

"That's what was expected of me when I worked with all those other people, so those are the kind of players I like to surround myself with. That's what makes it exciting for me."

The Jack DeJohnette group performs at 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 1, as part of the Paradise Jazz Series at Orchestra Hall, 3711 Woodward Ave., Detroit. Tickets are $18-$99. Call 313-576-5111 or visit www.dso.org.

Web Site: www.dso.org

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