SKF NOTE: One night in February 1980 I went to J.B. Scott’s nightclub in Albany, NY to hear Jack DeJohnette‘s New Directions quartet with John Abercrombie (guitar), Eddie Gomez (bass) and Lester Bowie (trumpet). I had a few published Modern Drummer interviews to my name and I was able to interview Jack before the show started. My hope was to continue the interview sometime after the show and offer it to MD. But Jack and I never reconnected.
I still have a 15-page typewritten never published manuscript of that interview. This part of the conversation has Jack DeJohnette, 36-years ago, telling me about his evolving practice routine and how he learned to play the drumset.
Scott K Fish: What kind of things do you practice? I hear tales of you practicing eight hours a day.
Jack DeJohnette: I use to do that. I don’t do it anymore. I just sit down and play.
SKF: How long did you do that for?
JD: I don’t know, man. I use to do it on the road. Do it ’til you get to a certain point technically where you don’t do it.
Now I can practice half mentally. I can play as fast as I want or whatever. Do it mentally. As long as I sit down at the instrument one or twice a week. You just get to a point where mentally you see yourself at the instrument — and it’s a cybernetic thing.
[New York drum teacher] Charlie Perry pointed that out. When you see yourself doing the act and your brainwaves send out a signal to that part of your body. You don’t actually follow through with it, but the message is sent there already. So it’s already programmed. So when you actually sit down at the instrument you’ll find that you can play it — once you develop a certain amount of dexterity and proficiency on the instrument.
SKF: There are certain drummers who practice using a book approach….
JD: I never did that shit because I never studied with a teacher. ‘Cause I play piano. I just went into a drum shop one day, got the 26 rudiments — got the sheet — and learned all [of] them.
I looked at a few drum books. Charles Stone’s Accents and Rebounds. Uh, that didn’t interest me to do. I knew what I wanted to do. I learned alot of what I did in my own head and listening to cats, watching them, talking with them, listening to records. And actually on-the-scene experience. On the job experience.
There’s a whole bunch of different ways you can get it.
JD: Oh, they were definitely rewarding and enlightening and opened things. It opened me up! But I was allowed…. People like Miles and Charles respected me and what I was doing enough to leave me alot of room to develop. To experiment. They never restricted me.
SKF: Would they make suggestions?
JD: Yeah. They’d make suggestions because they trusted my imagination and my ability to follow enough to make a suggestion — and know that I could carry it out and embellish it. And that’s the kind of players I like to hire. You don’t have to say alot. You just say a few words. They know what you’re talking about.
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