Jack DeJohnette / Jack DeJohnette's Special Edition

Earthwalk

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The final version of drummer/composer Jack DeJohnette's Special Edition bands sports a unique sound, on the verge of M-Base, and artfully driven due to saxophonists Greg Osby and Gary Thomas. Their tart sweet sounds are as much a part of the identity of this group as anything, and DeJohnette adds his own personal brand of funk and swing to the proceeding, making for an exciting and vital original music. Bassist Lonnie Plaxico, straight off the bandstand with Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, keeps things briskly moving along, while Michael Cain plays a lot of acoustic piano, and some modified electric keyboards, to further separate this Special Edition from the others. DeJohnette's epic tribute to Wayne Shorter, "Where or Wayne," is reworked in a hip, measured melody missing beats on purpose, simmered in Cain's synthesized mystery. The spiked notes of "Monk's Plumb" provide space for drum fills, merging to an easy swing discipline, and a typically ribald Osby solo. A deliberate Herbie Hancock-styled funk identifies "It's Time to Wake Up & Dream" with the sour horns and Cain's intent acoustic piano driving this most M-Base track. If "Priestesses of the Mist" is reflective of its title through Cain's foggy electronic washes, the distaff, magical side is also represented by the flute of Thomas and Osby's soprano during a most evocative selection. Similarly, the title track feels like a trek through thick jungle flora and fauna, as a heavy-footstepped electric bass guitar from Plaxico leads the many and long, heavy strides of the bandmembers. Closest to jazz is the electro-acoustic hot bopper "One on One" and "Blue" with its patient, straight-ahead, no-amenities framework. This band has changed radically since the days when David Murray and Arthur Blythe were frontmen, but the music is all good, holds interest, and makes for another giant step in the varied, diverse, and intriguing career of DeJohnette.

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