Jack DeJohnette
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40. Jack DeJohnette

A pianist from age four, Jack DeJohnette didn't take up the drums until 18. That relatively late start didn't hold him back: an early stint with Chicago avant-garde institution the Association for Advancement of Creative Musicians led to live work with John Coltrane, a position in Charles Lloyd's chart-topping quartet and eventually a gig with Miles Davis, as the trumpeter was gearing up for the 1970 fusion landmark Bitches Brew. "It was great to play with Miles, because Miles loved the drums," DeJohnette explained to Jazz.com in 2009. "Everything came from the drums. He liked boxing, he was a big boxing fan, and he saw drums in jazz as having similar aspects." As a bandleader and composer, DeJohnette fuses all that he'd learned — A.A.C.M.-honed experimentation, Coltrane's integrity, Davis's pugilistic groove — with his own innate knack for turning a memorable tune.