Jack DeJohnette, from his frenzied funk-brilliance electric period, to his masterful work driving Keith Jarrett's Standards Trio and performances such as his recent exploratory show with Chick Corea and Eddie Gomez at the IAJE (International Association for Jazz Education) conference in New York, has never shied away from an almost defiant brand of musical adventurism. The Elephant Sleeps but Still Remembers, recorded by the drummer with similarly inclined guitarist Bill Frisell at Seattle's Earshot Festival in 2001, is no exception. The set, the second duo disc released on DeJohnette's own label, is largely improvised and generally devoid of melody. The two instead settle into riffs and rhythmic patterns and follow where the muse leads alternately surreal and hypnotic soundscapes, with DeJohnette variously playing drums, percussion, and piano, and Frisell moving between guitar and six-string banjo. The long title track opens with serene guitar textures and gradually picks up steam, as Frisell works his way into searching, bluesy, acid-wash declarations before finally retreating. "Otherworldly Dervishes" begins in a state of air-hanging stasis, as effects-drenched guitar tones and overtones play off a primal backbeat, and later reaches toward a more intense, earthy fusion. DeJohnette offers impressionistic piano flourishes on "Storm Clouds and Mist," veering a little too close to wispy new-age terrain. Several pieces, including "Through the Warphole" and "Cartune Riots," amount to miniature sound-effects experiments. The appropriately titled "Ode to South Africa" is all polyrhythms and sticky guitar lines, leading into chanting and haunting wordless vocals. And the set closes with Coltrane's "After the Rain," as DeJohnette's mellow piano lines are trailed by Frisell. It's a perfect chill-out tune.
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