Monday, March 20, 2006

The DeJohnette Complex

The DeJohnette Complex
Milestone 64076

Recorded December 27th,28th, 1968

Side One

1. Equipoise
2. The Major General
3. Miles' Mode
4. Requiem Number 1

Side Two

1. Mirror Image
2. Papa, Daddy and Me
3. Brown, Warm and Wintry
4. Requiem Number 2


JACK DeJOHNETTE; drums, melodica
BENNIE MAUPIN; tenor, flute
STANLEY COWELL; piano, electric piano

Another major jazz figure from the late 1960s jazz-fusion school, DeJohnette came to prominence after replacing Tony Williams as Miles Davis' drummer. But before this was an association with the AACM and famously a stint with Charles Lloyd. 'The DeJohnette Complex' was recorded across 2 days in December 1968 with several sidemen who would also go on to greater things. Two players stand out from the lineup - Bennie Maupin, whose work on tenor in the late 60s is consistently excellent (see this review), while Roy Haynes makes full use of his ability to excel in any genre of jazz.

The album is a little like a trip through contemporary jazz - there are aspects of bop and free improvisation, as well as funk and fusion. 'The Major General', for example, is all whirling polyrhythms and virtuosity, while Vitous' 'Mirror Image' could be a 'Bitches Brew' outtake. Most intriguing, though, are the tracks where DeJohnette gives up the drum stool to Haynes and takes the lead on melodica. Infrequently, if ever, used in Jazz, the instrument's melancholic air lends an atmospheric sheen to tracks like the opening 'Equipoise'. Less successful are DeJohnette's attempts at new-age style ambience in 'Requiem Number 1 & 2'. The melodica is too exposed, sounds too fractured, and the supporting play too weak to cover Dejohnette's lack of melodic ideas.

But taken as a whole, the album certainly showcases a major talent in DeJohnette, as much for his writing as his playing. If you're a fan of fusion-era Miles, or enjoy some complex and well-played post-bop, you'll enjoy this. While this review pertains to the LP, it's been released on CD too, so should be easy to pick up.

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