FALLING SUPERSTARSON THEIR NEW LP, JAZZ'S LEADING LIGHTS CREATE A DIM DIN | Music | Phoenix | Phoenix New Times | The Leading Independent News Source in Phoenix, Arizona
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FALLING SUPERSTARSON THEIR NEW LP, JAZZ'S LEADING LIGHTS CREATE A DIM DIN

When Jack DeJohnette invited Herbie Hancock and Pat Metheny into the studio recently, it seemed like the drummer was assembling jazz's Masters of the Universe. Name most any landmark jazz event of the past three decades, and there's a good chance at least one of them has been there. In...
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When Jack DeJohnette invited Herbie Hancock and Pat Metheny into the studio recently, it seemed like the drummer was assembling jazz's Masters of the Universe. Name most any landmark jazz event of the past three decades, and there's a good chance at least one of them has been there. In the early Sixties, a young Hancock played in the Miles Davis Quintet, and in 1969, DeJohnette appeared on Davis' pioneering fusion work Bitches Brew. Four years ago, DeJohnette and Metheny teamed up with Ornette Coleman to record Song X, an album that renewed interest in Coleman's unequaled approach to improvisation. Add to their resumes Sonny Rollins, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, Sun Ra--who haven't these guys played with?

By all rights then, a gathering of these jazz giants should've resulted in a session that would make listeners shake on the floor in Pentecostal fervor. Best not look for that, though, on DeJohnette's new LP Parallel Realities. Not that it's a bad album from any angle. It's just one that doesn't come close to living up to the expectations created by its stellar cast.

Hancock turns in only a few short keyboard solos, nothing nearly as wicked as what he contributed last year as a sideman on Milton Nascimento's Miltons. His contributions on several cuts are one-note staccato vamps any of his piano-playing inferiors could have tapped out. DeJohnette's drums move up front only on the title cut, where he reminds us he can still kick up more than a little dust whenever he wants. There's a tune in 9/8 time called "Nine Over Reggae," co-written with Metheny, in which DeJohnette could unquestionably smoke if he were so moved. Makes you want to say, Jack, this is your record, kick 'em out of the way.

DeJohnette wrote half the tunes here, but Metheny penned the other half, and they're pieces nowhere near as challenging as the sensitive obstacle courses he's written for his own group. Even so, the guitarist turns this into a Pat Metheny album with his colorful playing. He swings through his variety of trademark guitar sounds and signature licks on every cut. The guy could get a merit badge in tastefulness for any one of his solos.

Stylistically, Parallel Realities could have gone to extremes in any number of ways. DeJohnette, Hancock, and Metheny have separately recorded bare-bones acoustic sets as well as wildly electric sessions, heavily reliant on synthesizers and drum machines. All three also have bounced from recording sensitive interpretations of jazz standards to playing outrageous, dissonant free jazz. But Parallel Realities comfortably straddles all of the above possibilities. Each player tempers himself to the mood of the piece and the approach of his cohorts. Acoustic piano and synthesizers work together on several tunes. And the cut "Exotic Isles" is uniformly relaxed and sedate, whereas the title track shows how aggressive these musicians can be.

Still, the album only hints at the triumvirate's potential. These are players known for their successful interactions in varied musical settings. For years DeJohnette has been responsible for the complex work in pianist Keith Jarrett's group. Hancock has shown the same ability in his duets with Chick Corea, as well as on numerous Blue Note recordings. Metheny is as comfortable playing be-bop as he is the Brazilian-tinged music his group tends to favor. Like a view too large to be captured in a photograph, Parallel Realities shows DeJohnette, Metheny, and Hancock to be a group whose power will best be revealed when they have a chance to stretch out in person.

Jack DeJohnette, Herbie Hancock, Dave Holland, and Pat Metheny will perform at the Scottsdale Amphitheatre on Friday, June 8, and Saturday, June 9. Show time is 8 p.m.

A gathering of these jazz giants should've resulted in a session that would make listeners shake on the floor in Pentecostal fervor.

THIS SALSA'S MADE IN NEW YORK CITY NEW-W... v6-06-90

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