DRUMMER and composer Jack DeJohnette has been responsible for some of the best jazz albums of the past 10 years, but his latest effort isn't one of them. "Irresistible Forces" is an enjoyable album at times, but its inconsistent, middling quality is a disappointment from such a major artist.
In their major-label debut, DeJohnette's Special Edition pursues the semi-commercial route of Pat Metheny's jazz-rock and Milton Nascimento's Brazilian balladry without quite equaling either model.
Although this is the fifth Special Edition album, the leader is the only holdover from the previous groups. Greg Osby and Baltimore's Gary Thomas are two of the most promising young saxophonists on the scene, but they lack the assurance and maturity to hold their own against DeJohnette. Mick Goodrick is more busy than eloquent on the electric guitar, and bassist Lonnie Plaxico is often overwhelmed by the bandleader.
Without a strong soloing voice, DeJohnette's tributes to Herbie Hancock, Horace Silver, Nascimento and Chicago's South Side never quite snap into focus. DeJohnette is still a spectacular drummer, and his unaccompanied duets with Brazil's Nana Vasconcelos are percussion heaven. Nonetheless, DeJohnette spends too much time fooling around with electric keyboards instead of staying behind his drums and pushing this band to its limits.
JACK DEJOHNETTE'S SPECIAL EDITION -- "Irresistible Forces" (MCA/Impulse, MCA 5992). Appearing through Sunday at Blues Alley.