How does Jack DeJohnette, one of the greatest and most influential jazz drummers of all time, plan to celebrate his 80th birthday? By playing, of course. And playing, a lot, is exactly what the longtime local resident—in the company of some big-name admirers-collaborators—will do during a run of special area concerts that kicks off this month and will benefit the ShapeShifter Plus arts organization.
The series will begin on September 17 with a duet performance by 2012 NEA Jazz Master DeJohnette and the tap dance giant Savion Glover at the Woodstock Playhouse and will be followed by a trio with bassist Dave Holland and pianist Jason Moran at the Playhouse on October 29 and culminate with a concert that pairs the percussionist with Grammy-winning pianist and long-time "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" band leader Jon Batiste and bassist Matthew Garrison at UPAC on December 15.
"At this point, I've stopped touring—after more than 50 years, I've had enough of the road," says DeJohnette, who rose to prominence as a member of Charles Lloyd's, Bill Evans's, and Stan Getz's bands in the mid-1960s before being recruited by Miles Davis when the trumpeter was making his landmark 1969 album Bitches Brew. "I haven't stopped playing, though. I'm just also focusing more on enjoying the Hudson Valley and all the great music and creativity that there is around here." The drummer and his wife Lydia, who has been instrumental in helping to organize the upcoming concert series, settled in Woodstock in the early 1970s.
The son of John Coltrane Quartet bassist Jimmy Garrison, Matthew Garrison cofounded Brooklyn creative space the ShapeShifter Lab in 2011; the non-profit ShapeShifter Plus organization was founded in 2014. "Our focus is on the advancement of inventive artistic voices, and our mission is to provide opportunities for artists and organizations to creatively and freely realize their visions," reads ShapeShifter Plus's mission statement. When the venue was forced to close due to COVID last year, Garrison and his partner, Fortuna Sung, formed the nonprofit organization—whose board also includes Jack and Lydia DeJohnette and saxophonist Ravi Coltrane (yes, John's son); honorary advisors include Herbie Hancock, Arturo O'Farrill, and others—to secure a new site in Brooklyn and expand its operations into the Hudson Valley.
"We're so very grateful to have Jack and Lydia involved [in ShapeShifter Plus's efforts] and to have them be able to bring their full experience into what we're doing with our artistic programming," says Garrison, whose organization's curated performances and workshops aim to present local and international artists.
"I call Savion Glover 'the John Coltrane of tap'," says DeJohnette about the dancer who captivated the world with his role in the Broadway musical "Bring in 'da Noise, Bring in 'da Funk." "Of course, I have a long association with Dave Holland [another local resident], going back to when we both played with Miles and in our band Gateway. I'm also a big fan of Jason Moran; we've played in duos and trios together over the years. And playing with Jon Batiste is a really special opportunity. He's the real deal—besides his incredible musicianship, it's just amazing, the way he just lifts up everyone's spirits when he walks into the room. I'm really looking forward to all of the collaborating that's coming up and to the other projects that ShapeShifter Plus will be putting together. And to be able to do what I do with [the organization], right here in the community."
The Jack DeJohnette/ShapeShifter Plus concert series is being copresented with Bardavon Presents and will begin with a performance by Jack DeJohnette and Savion Glover at the Woodstock Playhouse in Woodstock on September 17 at 8pm. (DeJohnette and Garrison will also play with Living Colour's Vernon Reid and Will Calhoun in a concert emceed by Roy Wood, Jr. at Fort Green Park in Brooklyn on October 8.) Tickets for the September 17 show are $45-$85 and masks are strongly encouraged.