DeJohnette, not heard here as a leader since a 1990 tour with a supergroup featuring Pat Metheny and Herbie Hancock, generally forsook the wide-open ambience of his new ECM disc, “Dancing With Native Spirits,” and instead relied on older material full of shifting soundscapes. Opener “Jack In” built quickly from sparse percussion, keyboard effects and soft piano musings by Michael Cain into a torrent of sound guided by the harsh guitar lines of Jerome Harris.
A Thelonious Monk-inspired tune written by Harris and DeJohnette’s “Indigo Dreamscapes” reflected a deft sharpness in the core trio’s collective improvs; much of the evening, percussionist Joakim Lartey played the role of an afterthought, delivering strong performances yet never connecting on the level of the other three. Where DeJohnette could have opted for a duet with Lartey, he chose to move his own solo into a barrage of indulgent bass drumming that ran counter to the generally tasty runs he had performed all evening.
Cain, who appears on the new DeJohnette disc, leans heavy on the impressionism, but his moves from improvisation to stating a theme were crisp and precise. Harris switched between acoustic bass guitar and guitar; on the former, he supplied a strong voice, whether leading or supporting the ensemble. On the latter, he moved between light and dark with ample ease.
Overall, the quartet shows tremendous promise, though a better reflection of the new music, inspired by Native Americans, would establish a fresh identity.