Sunday, March 6, 2016

Jack Dejohnette - 1986 "Zebra"

Zebra is an album by Jack DeJohnette featuring trumpeter Lester Bowie recorded in 1985 for the video program titled "Tadayuki Naito/Zebra" and released on the MCA label in 1989. The Allmusic review by Scott Yanow states "The performances are moody and has its colorful moments... Superior background music, recommended mostly to Jack DeJohnette completists"
Nearly three decades ago, Jack DeJohnette and Lester Bowie went into Grog Kill Studio in Woodstock to record "Zebra", a unique album that went virtually unnoticed when it was released, and has yet to be much discussed or appreciated to this day. Inspired by the photography of Tadayuki Naito, it was used as the soundtrack to a video program entitled "Tadayuki Naito/Zebra."

In recent years listeners have found that the film scores of composers like Ralph Vaughan Williams (Scott of the Antarctic, Costal Command, The 48th Parallel, etc) and Aaron Copland (Music for a Great City, The Red Pony, etc) , even those seemingly weakened without video context, can have tremendous value as musical expressions in their own right. "Zebra" can easily be added to this list of the worthy, particularly the central track, a tone poem entitled "Aho."

"Aho" according to Wikipedia, is the Lakota word for "Amen." So sparsely orchestrated, yet rich, Jack DeJohnette's undulating synthesizer provides a landscape not unlike his drumming, warming the canvas for Bowie's chant-like meditations. The synth part is not so simple as it initially sounds, yet neither does it busy itself.

The rest of the album is certainly worth having, though I would warn buyers that the drum machine Jack uses on other tracks, as well as some of the synth settings, will seem dated and perhaps less impressive to some (is the drum machine a tongue in cheek joke from a legendary drummer?) Having said this, I highly recommend the opening and closing tacks, "Ntoro I" and "Ntoro II".

But it is "Aho" that makes this album truly important. Get a copy while you still can.  

Tracks Listing

Ntoro I 8:40
Jongo 4:53
Aho 9:42
Kpledzo 7:58
Ntoro II 9:17

Line-up / Musicians

Synthesizers - Jack DeJohnette
Trumpet - Lester Bowie



  2. Thanks for this creative combination of synth and trumpet