Made in Chicago review: "this is not background music"

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Monday August 24, 2015

From Classicalite
By Mike Greenblatt

Jack DeJohnette, ‘Made In Chicago,’ ECM Records

Jack DeJohnette, a National Endowment For The Arts Jazz Master, is one of the most influential drummers of the 20th Century. On Made In Chicago, he gets back with his fellow radicals from the 1960s—Henry Threadgill (alto saxophone/bass flute), Roscoe Mitchell (sopranino/soprano and alto saxophones/bass recorder/baroque flute), Muhal Richard Abrams (piano) and new addition Larry Gray (acoustic bass/violoncello)—in a one-off gig back home to resurrect the flag of free-form improvisation, all-out cacophony, eerie haunting mellifluousness and avant-garde ramblings.

This is challenging music. Heavier than heavy metal, more progressive than prog-rock and sweeter in spots than European instrumental folk, these seven tracks take up 77:38 and demand your attention. In fact, if you don’t let yourself be bludgeoned over the head in submitting to the 17:01 “Chant” opener, you’re going to have to leave the room. There’s no casualness involved. This is not background music.

DeJohnette has taken the lessons he’s learned from being in the bands of Miles Davis, Keith Jarrett and Pat Metheny to become the human drum link between bebop and jazz-rock fusion. Accessible to a fault in his everyday life, he answered this reporter’s question within minutes. I asked him about lessons learned as a young man with Miles in 1969 and how he’s applied them to Made In Chicago. He was 27 when he replaced the late Tony Williams in the Miles band that would go on to record the seminal Bitches Brew. He was 23 when he joined the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians in 1965. The AACM is still going strong today.

“My time with Miles Davis as with many other collaborators in my life had always been about new discovery and a conversation through the music,” he told exclusively. “Miles allowed a sense of freedom and the combination of acoustic and electronic instruments was certainly new for the times and broadened our language. The conversation occurring on the Made in Chicago release is that of friends and colleagues I have had since my teenage years growing up in Chicago. We are wiser, seasoned and our vocabulary has broadened over the years.

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