Picks and Pans Review: Audio Visualscapes

updated 10/31/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 10/31/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

Jack DeJohnette's Special Edition

There are no duck ponds or shady maples to shelter the listener in these "audio visualscapes," no reprieve from the futuristic tumult that drummer-keyboardist DeJohnette and his four sidemen have fashioned. Yet if you can stand your ground and absorb it all, the double album (single CD or cassette) delivers thrilling virtuosity and freshness, a tempestuous ride across the frontiers of jazz-rock fusion, where the terrain is by turns slippery and sinister, eerily beautiful, sparkling and convoluted. Part of the roiling density of Audio Visualscapes comes from DeJohnette's pell-mell rhythms and the way he electronically layers the guitar and saxophones, doubling and tripling their voices to create swooping squadrons of on-rushing sound. As Miles Davis' drummer in the early 70s, DeJohnette helped create some of the best early fusion music. In the early '80s DeJohnette formed the first of several potent Special Edition bands to explore the perimeters of acoustic jazz. A surprisingly good pianist, DeJohnette incorporated electronic keyboards and effects while recording with the latest Special Edition lineup, a group that plays as if possessed on Audio Visualscapes. At 46, DeJohnette is doing what Davis did in the late '60s and early 70s, surrounding himself with exceptional young musicians: Lonnie Plaxico, 28, on bass, Gary Thomas, 27, on tenor sax, flute and bass clarinet, Greg Osby, 28, on alto and soprano saxophones, in addition to Mick Goodrick, 42, on guitar. Osby, who wrote two of the eight compositions, has a bristling style and a gleaming sound that are stunningly his own. (Impulse)

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