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Aural Pleasure Review

Jack DeJohnette: 'Sound Travels'

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Since making a name for himself as the backbone of Miles Davis' Bitches Brew-era band, drummer Jack DeJohnette has solidified a reputation as one of jazz's most accomplished and versatile artists, a seasoned technician equally at home playing fusion, free or hard bop. Sound Travels is a new journey for the drummer, both figuratively and literally. Inspired by his recent visits to Africa and South America, DeJohnette has fashioned Travels around the sounds he encountered on these trips, specifically the various rhythmic and instrumental styles of these cultures. It's not the most unique backstory (see: Paul Simon's Graceland, Herbie Hancock's Imagine Project, etc.), but DeJohnette largely avoids any unwanted comparisons by avoiding the "cultural tourism" approach. The primarily Afro-Cuban rhythms on display here serve their purpose as texture, providing needed color to what otherwise would have been a rather pallid release. It's the album's guest spots that really bolster the album, with Esperanza Spalding lending invaluable zest in her vocals for "Salsa for Lupita," and pianist Jason Moran injecting needed audacity into "Indigo Dreamscapes." In a word, Sound Travels is pleasant, a relatively lightweight release from an accomplished master content on reflecting the world with his music rather than trying to change it.

★★★★ (out of 5 stars)

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