Saturday, October 05, 2013

Jack DeJohnette's Special Edition, "Album Album"

Listening to a jazz playlist of mine on shuffle on my pocket computer, I had the pleasure of hearing "Third World Anthem," from "Album Album", a 1984 release by Jack DeJohnette's Special Edition. I first began to listen to jazz extensively when I was a DJ at KZSU, the student radio station at Stanford University. I first did a jazz show in the summer of 1983. When I started, I knew next to nothing. But I knew Miles Davis's "Kind of Blue," and John Coltrane's "My Favorite Things," so I started "So What" from the former and cued up the title track from the latter, and wondered what to play after that.

Jazz albums have good lists of personnel, so I went and got albums by all the sidemen on those two albums. One of the albums was by McCoy Tyner (pianist on the Coltrane album), and one of the sidemen on that album was Jack DeJohnette. I don't remember what Tyner album it was, but I vaguely remember it being a piano trio, which means it was almost certainly "Supertrios" from 1977.

In any case, this use of sidemen to find more records to play had quickly led me to Jack DeJohnette, and when I began to exclusively play jazz in my DJ'ing the following January, his work was a staple of my shows, and when "Album Album" came out that year, I played it to death, especially "Festival," "New Orleans Strut," and "Third World Anthem."

I spent just over a week in New York just after Thanksgiving in 1984, and I went to see Special Edition several times during their week-long gig at the Blue Note. David Murray had already become one of my favorite saxophone players by then, but I was just as impressed by John Purcell and Howard Johnson. Rufus Reid is the bassist on the album, but he was busy elsewhere, so Cecil McBee was replacing him, and I remember him as being especially great. And DeJohnette was, as always, simply a wonder on the drums.

"Album Album": one of the greatest records of the 1980s, to my ears. (Up there with "Seeds of Time," by the magnificent Dave Holland Quintet.)

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