June 13, 2015

Jack DeJohnette

Since 2005, the DC Jazz Festival organization has provided enriching and entertaining jazz performances and programs that introduce students and adults from all walks of life to jazz, our nation’s singular original art form. The festival presents a selection of the jazz genre’s most acclaimed artists as well as emerging artists, and provides enhanced exposure for the rich treasure trove of musicians from the Washington, DC area. Throughout the year, the DC Jazz Festival nourishes the community with free educational programs that extend our reach into underserved communities and enhance the quality of life for DC public and charter school students. 

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Meet the Artist

NEA Jazz Master Jack DeJohnette was interviewed by W.A. Brower.

Widely regarded as one of the great drummers in modern jazz, Jack DeJohnette has a wide-ranging style that makes him a dynamic sideman and bandleader. He has played with virtually every major jazz figure from the 1960s on, including Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Ornette Coleman, Sonny Rollins, and Abbey Lincoln. His versatility on the drums is accented by DeJohnette's additional accomplishments as a keyboardist: he studied classical piano for ten years before taking up drums.

In his early years on the Chicago scene, DeJohnette was active with the premiere musician organization, the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, whose members included Muhal Richard Abrams, Roscoe Mitchell, and Joseph Jarman. In 1966, he drummed alongside Rashied Ali in the John Coltrane Quintet. However, he became more widely known as a member of Charles Lloyd's band, where he first began playing with pianist Keith Jarrett. In 1968, he recorded his first album as a leader, The DeJohnette Complex, on which DeJohnette doubled on melodica.

The second major association of DeJohnette's early career spanned the years 1969-72, when he performed with Miles Davis' first fusion band. Davis gave a nod to DeJohnette in his autobiography, Miles: "Jack DeJohnette gave me a deep groove that I just loved to play over." Besides allowing him to play alongside such stellar musicians as Dave Holland, Chick Corea, and John McLaughlin, the Davis years also increased DeJohnette's session work.

DeJohnette began leading several groups in the early 1970s, including Compost, Directions, New Directions, and Special Edition, featuring a diverse gathering of musicians including David Murray, Eddie Gomez, Chico Freeman, John Abercrombie, and Lester Bowie. Since the 1980s, while continuing to lead his own projects and bands, DeJohnette has also been a member of the highly acclaimed Keith Jarrett/Gary Peacock/Jack DeJohnette trio. DeJohnette has continued to record and perform on keyboards, releasing albums such as Zebra, a mesmerizing synthesizer/trumpet duo with Lester Bowie featuring African music influences. He further explored his interest in African music in a 2005 duet with noted Gambian kora player Foday Musa Suso.

In 2005, DeJohnette launched Golden Beams Productions, an independent record label "as an outlet for the broad range of creative projects." The label garnered DeJohnette a Grammy Award for Peace Time, on which he is both featured artist and co-producer. He has composed soundtracks for both television and video, and has received numerous awards including the French Grand Prix du Disque in 1979. In 1991, he was awarded an honorary doctorate of music from the Berklee College of Music. DeJohnette is the winner of numerous DownBeat magazine "Drummer of the Year" critics' and readers' polls, and JazzTimes magazine's reader polls for "Best Drummer." 


The DC Jazz Festival is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization established in 2004 with a mission to create, develop, implement, and support cultural and educational programs in Washington, DC through the presentation of concerts, festivals, symposia, workshops, master classes, lecture/demonstrations and other programs related to jazz, blues, Latin and world music.