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Drumming genius: Jack DeJohnette of the Ivey Divey Trio.

photo:Joe Putrock

Music for the Ages

By David Greenberger

The Ivey Divey Trio

The Egg, March 24

Having known a man named Ken Eglin has enhanced my past 25 years of attending live-music performances. He was born in Cambridge, Mass., in 1916 and died at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Boston in 1984. I knew him during the last years of his life when he lived at a nursing home where I was working. His love of music was so complete, so enduring and sustaining that I regularly brought him recorded music to hear. While I already had free-ranging tastes in music, Ken was miles beyond me. He’d listen to everything I’d play him, most of it contemporary, and some considerably over-the-edge for my own peers. He would find the elements that moved him in whatever he was hearing: jazz, blues, soul and swing. He wanted music that was in-the-moment and emotional.

I miss Ken. I can imagine him being delighted by last Friday’s concert of the Ivey Divey Trio featuring Don Byron, Jack DeJohnette and Jason Moran. Harking back to Lester Young’s bassless trio with Buddy Rich and Nat “King” Cole, Byron assembled this trio last year for his album Ivey-Divey. Though they came of age in different decades, these three men share a similarly restless sense of exploration, and have sympathetically matched aesthetic sensibilities.

All three of them, as players on their own, have formidable skills and powers of invention. The dynamics that each one of them employed were impressive: Byron’s clarinet could go from the whispered breaths passing through noteless exhalations to birdlike trills and upper-register wails that leapt across centuries and continents.

Having DeJohnette on hand made for a rare evening (he wasn’t a part of concerts here and abroad last year, but, perhaps since he lives in the Woodstock area, geography made this possible). There were dazzling complexities in the rhythmic beds he’d create, out of which would spring gently explosive moments of rollicking character, like frisky sea mammals skittering across ice and splashing into roiling waters. He also deserves commendations for the nuanced dramatics that ended each of the night’s six selections. Whenever you’re fortunate to be at a performance that includes Jack DeJohnette, play close attention to his endings!

Drums and piano anchored the left and right of the stage in the Swyer Theatre, with Byron free to move about. During passages when either of the other two was soloing, he’d retreat toward the rear of the stage, listening intently. At one point, as Moran wound down, Byron reentered the composition, playing his clarinet into the geometric space of the raised-lid grand piano and being picked up by the mics inside.

Though the two sets included a mere six pieces, it was a stunning range that showed the breadth, as well as the connection between the composers. The first set started with Gershwin’s “Somebody Loves Me,” the second with Miles Davis’ and Joe Zawinul’s “In a Silent Way/It’s About Time.” The night showed that great songs provide context for players to be in the same place at the same time, calling on a language that is purely musical.

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