Born in Chicago in 1942, Jack DeJohnette began formal piano training at age four. The radio brought young Jack a variety of sounds – broadcasts from Russia and Europe, the Grand Ole Opry and local blues. His uncle, Roy I. Wood, was a popular local DJ and he (and his record collection) would have a tremendous impact on Jack, exposing him to the world of jazz. But as a youngster, Jack made all kinds of music – performing in Doo-Wop and blues groups. At fourteen, he began playing drums with his high school concert band and taking private piano lessons at the Chicago Conservatory of Music. In his early years on the Chicago scene, he led his own groups and was equally in demand as a pianist and as a drummer.
“One of the things I never did was put music into categories,” he explains. “I was fascinated by how music could be so diverse, and that has always stayed with me.”
Jack DeJohnette has collaborated with most major figures in jazz history. Some of the great talents he has worked with are John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Ornette Coleman, Sonny Rollins, Sun Ra, Jackie McLean, Thelonious Monk, Bill Evans, Stan Getz, Ron Carter, Lee Morgan, Charles Lloyd, Herbie Hancock, Joe Henderson, Freddie Hubbard, Abbey Lincoln, Betty Carter and Eddie Harris, who is responsible for convincing DeJohnette to stick with drums because he heard DeJohnette"s natural talent.
In 1968 DeJohnette joined Miles Davis"s group in time for the epochal upheaval marked by "Bitches Brew," an album that changed the direction of jazz. In his autobiography, Miles Davis said, "Jack DeJohnette gave me a deep groove that I just loved to play over."
It was also in 1968 when he recorded his first album as a leader on the Milestone label, called “The DeJohnette Complex”, where Jack played melodica along with his mentor Roy Haynes on drums. In the early 70"s he recorded “Have You Heard” in Japan and two albums for Prestige, called “Sorcery” and “Cosmic Chicken.” These early sessions united Jack with Gary Peacock, Bennie Maupin, Stanley Cowell, Miroslav Vitous, Eddie Gomez, Alex Foster and Peter Warren.
Jack began to record as a leader for ECM, with each of his successive groups Directions, New Directions, and Special Edition making important contributions to the evolution of jazz. The New Directions band featured two musicians who would have long-term associations with DeJohnette: John Abercrombie and Lester Bowie. A friend from Chicago days, Bowie played intermittently with DeJohnette until the end of his life. Most notably, Lester and Jack collaborated on a duo album called “Zebra,” which was a world beat influenced video soundtrack and CD. Abercrombie continued to work with DeJohnette in the Gateway Trio, along with Dave Holland. Special Edition, with its rotating front line, helped introduce the sounds of David Murray, Rufus Reid, Howard Johnson, Arthur Blythe, Chico Freeman, Greg Osby, Michael Caine, Lonnie Plaxico, Gary Thomas and John Purcell to a wider audience. DeJohnette has also recorded as a leader on Columbia, Landmark, MCA/GRP, and Toshiba/EMI/Blue Note.
2004 was an exciting year of performing and recording for DeJohnette – including work on two Grammy nominated projects “The Out of Towners” (with Keith Jarrett and Gary Peacock) and Don Byron’s “Ivey Divey”; and the release of Rarum, Vol. 12: Selected Recordings, a compilation of highlights from his ECM catalog, for whom he still records. In 2005, Jack will tour with a variety of high-profile outfits, such as the Standards Trio with Keith Jarrett & Gary Peacock; his own, the Latin Project, with Don Byron, Giovanni Hidalgo, Jerome Harris, Edsel Gomez and Luisito Quintero; with Bobby McFerrin; Celebrating Tony Williams, a tribute to the late drum master that will feature John Scofield and Larry Goldings; and the new Jack DeJohnette Quartet, featuring Danilo Perez, John Patitucci and Jerome Harris (which kicked off the year with a week of sold-out shows at Birland in NYC).