Jack DeJohnette ‘Made in Chicago’ (ECM) 3/5

jack-deJohnetteThis new live release represents something of a return to his family roots for drummer and leader Jack DeJohnette. He in fact studied piano and music at college in Chicago as far back as 1962 and among his then classmates Roscoe Mitchell and Henry Threadgill. The recording ties in with the fiftieth anniversary of one of Chicago’s modern jazz institutions, Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), and was recorded in late August 2013 at the Windy City’s Millennium Park, officially ‘Jack DeJohnette day’. AACM were in their heyday during the 1970s and the lengthy pieces here hark back to the loft era of intense musical creativity. One major feature here is the minimalist use of piano throughout from Muhal Richard Abrams. After a rambling intro on piano, there is reed ensemble work with bass flute in the lead on ‘Museum of Time’. One of the strongest pieces is the evocative ‘This’ where the flute playing of Threadgill is showcased over a quasi-funereal tone and this an extremely downbeat number that requires several listens in order for the ear to adapt to the achingly slow pace. By contrast, the free thinking seventeen minute opener, ‘Chant’, can best be described as organised chaos and fans of AACM will be in their element here. In parts, the music here is a little too diffuse and disorganised for this writer with some losing their thread part way through, and this is definitely not music for the faint-hearted. That said, there is no doubting the sincerity of the music and to have so many of the key members the band reunited is a triumph in itself.

Tim Stenhouse