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Jack DeJohnette & Steppin Thru

This is one of my all time favorite jazz-fusion cuts, by the New Directions group that Jack DeJohnette assembled to do this album, New Rags (1977, ECM), a pretty obscure album. The guitarist is also one of my favorites.

Jack DeJohnette (drums), John Abercrombie (guitar), Alex Foster (tenor saxophone), Mike Richmond (bass). I’ve been waiting a long time for this to show up on the Toobs. It used to be one of my most often played tunes on vinyl, then later when I transferred it to cassette. I also love the cut “Flys” on this album, which has been posted here. I hope to reacquire this album on CD.

“Steppin’ Thru” is exactly the right title to describe what happens with the music here at a few key spots (0:50, 3:27, 4:46, 7:16, 8, 34). Steppin’ thru to the primal and frantic, then to the moody and contemplative, then primal again, the contemplative again, then finally primal again but with a strutting fade-out that is . . . primally contemplative? There are a lot of things I like on this cut: DeJohnette’s cymbal work in the quiet parts, Abercrombie’s apocalytpic guitar in the frantic segments and ambient echoes in the contemplative segments, and Alex Foster’s primal scurries and blasts on saxophone.

Can any music person tell me what the saxophone is doing (for instance, between 0:53-1:30)? What mode is he playing in? Is it a whole tone scale? Is he playing up and down some kind of arpeggios? What’s going on? I’ve been wondering since the 1970s.

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2 responses to “Jack DeJohnette & Steppin Thru

  1. I really liked it.

    In a completely unrelated comparison. After listening to the saxophone riff you pointed out, it made me think of the drum solo in Iron Butterfly’s In a Gadda da Vida. Just not a long. 🙂

    • wdydfae

      In a Gadda da Vida! What a blast from the past! I got a soft spot for acid rock, but that has to be the most ponderously hokey psychadelic riff ever performed. do do do-do-do do DO DO DO da do do do-do-do do DO DO DO . . .

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