Jack DeJohnette Biography

Pianist, Drummer, Songwriter (1942–)
Jack DeJohnette is a drummer, keyboardist and composer who has been a noted jazz musician since the 1960s.


Born on August 9, 1942, in Chicago, Illinois, Jack DeJohnette studied classical piano for a decade before taking up the drums as a teenager. An acclaimed percussionist, he has worked with many famous names in jazz, such as John Coltrane, Miles Davis and Esperanza Spalding. DeJohnette received a 2008 Grammy Award and was named a "Jazz Master" by the National Endowment for the Arts in 2012.

Young Musician

Jack DeJohnette was born on August 9, 1942, in Chicago, Illinois. When he was just 4 years old, he began studying the piano; classical piano would take up the next ten years of his life. When he entered his teens, DeJohnette's musical interests expanded to blues, pop and jazz. It was also while in his teens that DeJohnette started on the drums, the instrument that would define his career.

Journeys Into Jazz

DeJohnette became part of Chicago's music scene in the 1960s, through the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians and by drumming with John Coltrane. Following a move to New York City in 1966, DeJohnette joined the acclaimed Charles Lloyd Quartet. He stayed with the group until 1968. Between 1969 and 1972, DeJohnette was part of Miles Davis's fusion band, and was heard on the transformative recording Bitches Brew (1970).

DeJohnette's first album as a leader, The DeJohnette Complex, came out in 1968. He formed his own groups—such as Directions and Special Edition—in the 1970s, but also continued to work as a sideman. In 1979, DeJohnette received France's Grand Prix du Disque award.

A defining point of DeJohnette's career came when he began drumming in a trio with pianist Keith Jarrett and bassist Gary Peacock in the 1980s. This collaboration would continue for decades. However, while DeJohnette may be best known as a drummer, he has played keyboards for many projects over the years, as well as creating his own compositions.

Acclaimed Artist

In 2005, as DeJohnette was touring with the Jack DeJohnette Quartet, The New York Times wrote that he was likely "one of the most important musicians in the last 40 years of jazz." That same year, DeJohnette founded his own record label: Golden Beams Productions. This label released DeJohnette's Peace Time, which earned him a 2008 Grammy Award for best new age album.

The National Endowment for the Arts named DeJohnette a Jazz Master in 2012, one of the highest honors in his field. Though he could choose to sit back and rest on his laurels, DeJohnette instead remains a productive force in music. He recently collaborated with Bruce Hornsby, Esperanza Spalding and others on Sound Travels (2012), and continues to tour and perform in a variety of venues.

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