"The Paul Butterfield Blues Band brought me up here actually," says longtime Woodstock area resident and legendary jazz drummer Jack DeJohnette, calling from Switzerland the afternoon before playing the iconic Montreux Jazz Festival with the other members of his red-hot trio: saxophonist Ravi Coltrane and bassist Matthew Garrison.
"A couple of players that I knew from Chicago—[multi-instrumentalist] Gene Dinwiddie and [drummer] Phillip Wilson—were playing with him," he continues. "So my wife and I came up to visit. And we moved up here because they were here, but they wound up leaving. [DeJohnette laughs.] We've raised our daughters here. We really love the community and it remains one of our favorite places in the world."
And on August 16, the man who has kept time for some of the greatest leading men in jazz history, including Miles Davis, Bill Evans, Thelonious Monk, Stan Getz, Herbie Hancock, fellow Ulster County resident Sonny Rollins, and Keith Jarrett (whose trio with Jack and bassist Gary Peacock remains viable and active to this very day) to name but a few, gives back to the region he fell in love with almost 40 years ago when he brings his current trio to Bearsville Theatre for a special concert hosted by the renowned local music organization Jazzstock to benefit Family of Woodstock.
"My wife Lydia has worked with them in the past, handling crisis management, and we've donated clothes to them," DeJohnette says. "It's a great organization and really helps a lot of people who are not so well off. This event is very important."
There will also be a silent auction held on the day of the show, all proceeds of which will be going to Family (ticket sales for the concert itself will be a partial donation). While DeJohnette hinted that he might have something to put up on the block, he is keeping mum about it.
"It's a silent auction," he says with a laugh.
DeJohnette, who has worked with both Ravi's parents, John and Alice Coltrane, as well as Matthew's father, Trane's longtime bassist Jimmy Garrison, in the past, is indeed quite excited to showcase the new directions his current trio is taking the three-piece format. "I originally put this trio together 20 years ago for a performance at the Museum of Modern Art in Brooklyn," he explains, like a proud uncle. "We first played then, and we've been like family ever since. And being that I played with both their parents, there's a connection there. Matthew's worked extensively with so many names—John Scofield, Gary Burton, John McLaughlin, just to name a few—and he's created quite a name for himself and has created a unique voice on the bass. He's developed a style and a way of playing on the electric bass that sounds like an orchestra. And he uses electronics as well. And Ravi, I've been playing on and off with him for years and I've watched him develop his own voice as a composer and band leader."
Just don't expect a proper studio recording by the Jack DeJohnette Trio anytime soon. According to its fearless leader, the three men are still in the exploratory phase of their work together as a unit and cutting an album is the furthest thing from their minds. "We'll get to that," DeJohnette promises. "Right now what's important is playing the music and developing our voices as a unit. [Recording] is not the emphasis. We'll do that when we feel we are ready. But the music we are making is developing in a really positive way and we're having a lot of fun at it."
The Jack DeJohnette Trio will play a benefit concert for Family of Woodstock on August 16 at 8pm. Tickets are $25 in advance/$30 day of show. (845) 679-4406; Bearsvilletheater.com.