With Made In Chicago, Jack DeJohnette celebrates a reunion with old friends. More than 50 years ago, DeJohnette, Roscoe Mitchell and Henry Threadgill were all classmates at Wilson Junior College on Chicago’s Southside, pooling energies and enthusiasms in jam sessions. Shortly thereafter Jack joined Muhal Richard Abrams’ Experimental Band, and Roscoe and Henry soon followed him. When Abrams co-founded the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians in 1965, Mitchell and Threadgill were involved from the outset, presenting concerts and contributing to each other’s work under the AACM umbrella. DeJohnette had relocated to New York by then, but remained a frequent visitor and collaborator.
Invited to present a programme of his own choosing in the context of the Chicago Jazz Festival, Jack DeJohnette brought his old colleagues together for a concert at Millennium Park in August 2013, completing the group with the addition of bassist/cellist Larry Gray. This live recording, documenting their first performance as a quintet, was mixed by DeJohnette and Manfred Eicher at New York’s Avatar Studio. The album is issued as the AACM begins its 50th year anniversary year, and is both a powerful contemporary statement and a reminder of the wealth of great diverse music and innovative approaches to playing, writing and arranging which the organization has introduced over the years.
In the liner notes, Jack gives much of the credit to Muhal Richard Abrams, for leading by example in the early days. “Muhal’s door was always open. He wanted to explore different ways of composing and improvising, and then demonstrated to me, Roscoe, Joseph [Jarman] and Malachi [Favors] those different possibilities. It felt natural, and we saw there were other ways to express ourselves through improvisation. Most importantly, we began to recognize something in each other.” Muhal emphasizes that “it wasn’t a process of encouragement. Everyone came ready to be an individual. That’s all it took. And it’s quite strong to be amongst people who want to pursue their individualism and accept that realization… It felt special and unique because everyone was there for the right reasons, and everyone’s efforts seemed synchronized.” Henry Threadgill notes that “We gravitated toward people with a certain kind of voice and vision…When you’re young you like to look for people who want to try the things you want to try, to find some kind of comradeship.” Roscoe Mitchell observes that the work, and the mutual inspiration, is a continuing process: “Every time I get together with musicians from the AACM it’s like we are just picking up from wherever we left off. I think you can achieve great things in music by having these longstanding relationships with people. If you told me back then that this thing never stops, I might not have believed you. But now I see that’s really true.”
Along the way Mitchell, Threadgill, Abrams and DeJohnette himself have changed the history of the music, with many landmark recordings and volatile concerts. Though younger than these meanwhile iconic players, bassist and cellist Larry Gray now also qualifies as a veteran of the Chicago jazz scene. Some of his earliest recordings were with Roscoe Mitchell and Jodie Christian, and he grew up absorbing the innovations of the AACM along with a wide scope of jazz and classical music and more. He first played with Jack in the early 1990s with another set of legendary Chicago soloists including Von Freeman and Ira Sullivan.
Made In Chicago features compositions by Roscoe Mitchell (“Chant” and “This”), Muhal Richard Abrams (“Jack 5”), Jack DeJohnette (“Museum of Time”), and Henry Threadgill (“Leave Don’t Go Away”), as well as the collective improvisation “Ten Minutes”.
The album marks ECM debuts for Muhal Richard Abrams, Henry Threadgill and Larry Gray. Roscoe Mitchell’s ECM discography includes albums with the Art Ensemble of Chicago (Nice Guys, Full Force, Urban Bushmen, The Third Decade, and Tribute To Lester) as well as with his Note Factory band (Nine To Get Ready, Far Side) and with the US/UK Transatlantic Art Ensemble which he co-led with Evan Parker (Composition/Improvisation Nos. 1, 2 & 3, and Boustrophedon).
Jack DeJohnette, recently named a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master, has recorded prolifically for ECM since 1971. His first disc for the label was Ruta & Daitya, a duet with Keith Jarrett. Numerous recordings with Jarrett since then include many albums with the popular ‘Standards Trio’ completed by Gary Peacock (highlights include the six-CD set At The Blue Note, and, most recently, Somewhere). Jack has led a series of distinguished groups of his own at ECM beginning with Directions, followed by New Directions and Special Edition. Special Edition’s recordings, with line-ups including David Murray, Arthur Blythe, Chico Freeman, John Purcell, Howard Johnson and Baikida Carroll, were reprised in ECM’s Old & New Masters box set series in 2012 to great critical acclaim. DeJohnette also co-led the Gateway trio with John Abercrombie and Dave Holland (albums Gateway, Gateway 2, Homecoming, In The Moment), and has recorded with frequent musical partner John Surman (The Amazing Adventures of Simon Simon, Invisible Nature, Free And Equal). DeJohnette’s unique solo album Pictures stands as a classic amongst the early ECM recordings. He has furthermore appeared as drummer on numerous ECM sessions, including albums by Kenny Wheeler, Collin Walcott, John Abercrombie, Pat Metheny, George Adams, Jan Garbarek, Terje Rypdal, Gary Peacock, Bill Connors, Ralph Towner and Mick Goodrick.