ALL – STAR GROUP HUDSON WITH LARRY GRENADIER, JOHN MEDESKI AND JOHN SCOFIELD FORMED TO CELEBRATE JACK DEJOHNETTE’S 75 YEARS WITH A NORTH AMERICAN TOUR IN 2017
It’s hard to talk about jazz – and impossible to talk about jazz drumming and percussion – without talking about Jack DeJohnette. Since the early 1960s, this multi-talented artist has also established himself over the years as an accomplished pianist and composer, and has pushed the boundaries of the genre – not only through his collaborations with seminal artists like Bill Evans, Miles Davis, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Pat Metheny and numerous other luminaries, but also as a solo composer and performer. Over the past half-century, he has cemented his reputation as one of the most versatile and influential drummers in the history of jazz.
DeJohnette will turn 75 in the summer of 2017. In celebration of this milestone, he’ll hit the road in June for a North American tour with Hudson, an all-star group that includes bassist Larry Grenadier, keyboardist John Medeski and guitarist John Scofield. The ensemble takes its name from the idyllic Hudson Valley area of New York State, where each of these musicians resides.
The group originally came together in the fall of 2014 to perform in the Woodstock Jazz Festival. “There is a kindred spirit in the Hudson Valley,” says DeJohnette, “and there are many musicians who live in the area who represent a variety of genres. In recent years, we have only been able to collaborate locally on occasion due to our individual musical obligations, but the fact remains that there’s a common language that we all speak – something that emerges from our shared environment and our shared surroundings.”
Grenadier agrees that environment can be a driving force in the creative process. He draws a similar sense of inspiration from the Hudson Valley – a locale that offers a placid alternative to the much more frenetic pace of nearby New York City.
“The musicians who migrated up this way from the city were not escaping the music,” he says. “They were looking for a way to go deeper into it. The space and the atmosphere of the area create an ideal place to find the music within. We all travel and play so much around the world that when we are home, we’re in a place that’s full of quietude and we have room to search for the beauty and space within music.”
“Places, like people, have their own energy and personality”, says Medeski, “and that energy and personality have an impact on those who live there”. “The Hudson Valley,” he says, “puts the gentle beauty and power of very old mountains and an incredible river estuary within reach of one of the most powerful, international, creative centers in the world – New York City. I think each of us, in our own way, uses these forces as tools to keep us creative and growing.”
Scofield, meanwhile, sits in the fortunate position of being a longtime collaborator with not only Medeski but also with DeJohnette himself. Sco remembers his very first gig with the high-profile drummer at the Sweet Basil in New York City in 1978. Later that same year, he recorded with DeJohnette for the first time on the Zbigniew Siefert album, Passion.
“I’ve learned so much playing with Jack and feel lucky to have gotten to play with him as much as I have,” says Scofield, who – like DeJohnette – played on Herbie Hancock’s 1995 album The New Standards and toured with the project. Scofield, DeJohnette and organist Larry Goldings also recorded Saudades together, a 2006 double-disc live album that captured their group Trio Beyond at the London Jazz Festival in 2004. Trio Beyond toured extensively in support of Saudades.
“Playing with Jack on those two albums – along with my own Time on My Hands album in 1990 – are among my proudest recorded moments,” says Scofield.
Likewise, nearly four decades of collaboration have instilled in DeJohnette a longstanding respect for Scofield. “I have always admired John,” he says. “He has a sound that is entirely his own. We have an ability to communicate on the bandstand and in the studio that is unique to us alone.”
There’s a belief that geography defines destiny, that the place in which you live and the community with which you interact can have a profound impact on the choices you make and the individual you ultimately become. If this is true, the collective known as Hudson demonstrates qualities and virtues that are consistent with the place from which it takes its name – creatively rich, highly interactive and loaded with possibility.
“I am always inspired by the process of creating music with people who have a broad musical vocabulary,” says DeJohnette. “This can come from either years of experience or from the youthfulness and courageous spirit of a younger musician. The music of Hudson will take us in a variety of directions, and this is always an exciting journey for me.”
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