Jack DeJohnette is proverbial different drummer

| Saturday, March 2, 2013, 10:22 p.m.

Jack DeJohnette is the proverbial different drummer.

Not only does he lift the performance of percussion several notches in his work, but that level of play also elevates to music the bands produce.

At two concerts March 2 at the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild on the North Side, he guided a quintet through hard-working and challenging performances. These were not concerts with easy renditions on well known songs. They were not sessions in which the listeners could sit back and let the music ease over them.

And there were only four tunes, and an encore, in the first set, meaning these were numbers that were explored.

DeJohnette offered pieces that changed moods and tempos. They were pieces in which players took on different jobs in different pieces. In “Tango Africaine,” for instance, Tim Reis offered a soprano sax solo while bassist Jerome Harris did a wordless vocal and keyboardist George Colligan added syncopated, rhythmic clapping.

All the while, though, DeJohnette was putting together creative drum explorations that looked at all aspects of his kit. At one point in that number, he moved down and back across his four cymbals, creating a shimmering sound in four levels of tone.

In “Blue,” while Colligan played a solo on a tiny pocket trumpet, DeJohnette let guitarist Lionel Loueke and Harris accompany him, tossing in an occasional bash on the cymbal hit by his hand.

In the middle of “One for Eric,” dedicated to sax player Eric Dolphy, the drummer flipped his right stick so he could have a heavier end to attack his cymbals. And in “Priestesses in the Mist,” he used mallets to created a softer tone, but then stroked those mallets across the drumheads for yet another sound. In that piece, he also explored other metal pieces on his kit, finally moving to a subtle look at his cowbell.

Such is the work of John DeJohnette.

The other members of the group also provided good solos and ensemble work. Colligan, who sat amid two electric keyboards and the Guild's grand piano, put together his best work on the latter. His solo on “One for Eric” started off simply, perhaps even disappointing, but grew to a dramatic finish that drew cheers.

Loueke was the best of his visits here. His work on “Tango Africaine” was moved from harshly metal, plucked notes to a soaring finale.

Harris did a fine job on his bass, but his voice created another tonal element that blended with Reis's saxes and Colligan's pocket trumpet.

DeJohnette and his band indeed provided a different sound worth marching to.

Bob Karlovits is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at bkarlovits@tribweb.com or 412-320-7852.

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