Preview: Jack DeJohnette makes long-awaited return to Pittsburgh

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These days, Jack DeJohnette plays pretty much when and with whomever he wants. Last weekend he was in Portland, Ore., with clarinetist Don Byron and bassist Matthew Garrison for a jazz festival and panel discussion out there.

This weekend the veteran drummer comes to Pittsburgh, to play at the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild's Jazz Hall.

"I'm looking forward to playing in Pittsburgh," Mr. DeJohnette says. "I haven't been there that much," pointing out that he once came, decades ago, to the Crawford Grill with alto saxophonist Jackie McLean.

Jack DeJohnette 70th Birthday Tour

Where: Manchester Craftsmen's Guild, North Side.

When: 7 (sold out) and 9:30 p.m. Saturday.

Tickets: $56.50; 412-322-0800;

This time, he'll be with saxophonist Tim Ries and guitarist Lionel Loueke, both familiar names to Guild audiences.

Mr. DeJohnette, born in Chicago in 1942, started his musical life as a pianist and still plays that instrument from time to time. "The drums came along later, in my teens," he says "I played both instruments in Chicago."

In the mid-1960s, he says, "I was hired by the organist John Patton" -- as a drummer -- and moved to New York, where he's lived since.

Mr. DeJohnette is arguably best known for his collaborations with other titans in the jazz world.

He was on the cusp of the Miles Davis-led fusion movement, worked in the Gateway Trio with bassist Dave Holland and guitarist John Abercrombie as well as a quartet with Mr. Holland, guitarist Pat Metheny and pianist Herbie Hancock. This year is the 30th anniversary of the Gary Peacock and Keith Jarrett Trio, and of late he's shared stages with Esperanza Spalding, Ravi Coltrane and Bobby McFerrin.

On top of that, he's led his own band, Special Edition, off and on since the late 1970s; his latest CD is a compilation of material originally recorded from 1979-84.

Even with all that, "I'm not running 365 days of the year," Mr. DeJohnette says. "I can pace myself and be at my optimum."

One thing that has changed over the decades: marketing -- "what a musician has to do, navigate for the fans." He notes that he sells more CDs at performances than online and complains that "People steal music and offer it for free."

The Guild shows are being billed as a 70th birthday celebration for Mr. DeJohnette but only "because it was booked last year" when he hit that milestone, he says. "But I am 70 [now] -- that part is accurate."


Rick Nowlin: or 412-263-3871. First Published February 28, 2013 5:00 AM


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