DeJohnette, Byron, Garrison, Quintero quartet 

(L-R) Matt Garrison, Luisito Quintero, Don Byron and Jack DeJohnette.

Jazz lives! Despite Dua Lipa, Lady Gaga, Frank Ocean, thrash metal, and the second coming of the Beatles, real jazz exists, and is more relevant than ever. Jazz is the three-dimensional chess of music — though it has a lot more soul than a chess game. Jack DeJohnette, the world-renowned drummer, played with Don Byron (tenor saxophone and numerous clarinets), Matt Garrison (bass) and Luisito Quintero (percussion) at the Bearsville Theater December 17.

DeJohnette began with a tender piano solo: “Ode to Satie” (his own composition). For some reason, his piano playing reminds me of the collages Matisse made at the end of his life, applying all the wisdom of painting to a slightly different medium. “Ode to Satie” evolved into John Coltrane’s “Alabama,” with the whole band. Which segued into “You Are #6,” by Don Byron.


I was wondering if Sonny Rollins, the legendary saxophonist, who lives in Woodstock, would be at this show, and he was, in the form of one of his compositions: “Blessing in Disguise.”

The band doesn’t have a name. Two of the musicians, DeJohnette and Byron, are local. They represent three generations of jazz. (Garrison’s father played with Jack in John Coltrane’s quartet.) Sometimes Don Byron put down his saxophone and picked up a cowbell, and the group became almost entirely percussive. At various points, each of the four stopped playing and just listened, sometimes smiling.

Though I personally dislike electronic gadgets on instruments (or anyway I never enjoyed Jerry Garcia’s experiments with them) I was impressed by Garrison’s fluidity on his instrument, transforming it into an electric organ or a fuzz guitar at will. In a pianoless quartet, his backing was integral.

The audience was hushed, contemplating, sometimes calling out encouragement.

There are moments in jazz where none of the players know what to do; they just have to guess. With great musicians, those guesses are spectacular.

My wife and I got home and she pointed up to the sky: “Look!” A perfect white ring encircled the gibbous moon, the largest moon ring I ever saw. If it’s possible for music to generate an astronomical circle, these four alchemists can do it.