Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Yet Another Powerful Album from Kenny Garrett

The headliner at this year’s Charlie Parker Jazz Festival just keeps putting out great albums. Is there another saxophonist alive who says as much with passing tones as Kenny Garrett? His previous album Seeds from the Underground in many respects was a shout-out to many of the latest generation of jazz players that Garrett has mentored. His new one, Pushing the World Away is less eclectic, mostly a quartet session with piano and lots of latin grooves plus those menacing modal vamps that Garrett loves so much and plays with such an instantly recognizable intensity. The basic lineup alongside Garrett is Benito Gonzalez on piano, Corcoran Holt on bass and Marcus Baylor on drums, although as usual, there are many cameos.

The hard-hitting opening track, A Side Order of Hijiki is neither oceanic nor Asian-flavored but it is a little salty – the title actually references a wry Mulgrew Miller joke about Garrett’s restless style. Hey, Chick, a Corea dedication, works its way up to waltz time over Holt’s offbeat pedal pulse and then alternates between apprehensively fiery and majestic, Baylor kicking up some dust underneath.

Chucho’s Mambo, a shout-out to Chucho Valdes (who shares Garrett’s birthday) has more bite and funk, both lush and lively with guest Ravi Best on trumpet. As one might expect,  Lincoln Center is an energetic, sophisticated theme that the band threatens to send whirling off the rails until Garrett finally, matter-of-factly walks his way to another one of those searing modal vamps. J’Ouvert (Homage to Sonnny Rollins) blends carefree tropicalia into a New Orleans shuffle, while That’s It hews suspiciously close to Bobby Hebb’s old soul hit, Sunny, with more of a latin flavor.

With its Cuban piano, I Say a Little Prayer totally nails the latin groove that Burt Bacharach was going for, slinky and suspenseful. The album’s title track, a long, biting soprano feature, sprinkles unexpectedly comedic riffage into the eerie blaze, its hooks alluding to a certain Paul Desmond classic. Homma San builds off a simple Asian-tinged piano riff, then Garrett takes a turn at the piano on Brother Brown, an austere, nuanced clinic in implied melody with a three-piece string section. Alpha Man, with its Lez Zep allusions, is a classic Garrett wailer and maybe the best track here, at least the most intense one. The album winds up on the same aggressive note as it began with Rotation, a blazing, allusively menacing feature for guest pianist Vernell Brown. What else is there to say about this – if adrenaline is yout thing, Garrett never fails to deliver.

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August 31, 2013 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kenny Garrett – Back with More Great Tunes

Here in the blogosphere we’re supposed to stay on top of what’s new, and up-and-coming, and fill in the umpteen gaps where the corporate media fears to tread. By the same token, that sometimes means overlooking established artists, which can be a faux pas – some artists are established because they’re good. Case in point: Kenny Garrett, who’s got a new album out, Seeds from the Underground, his second for Mack Avenue. This one is a gem: it finds him reaching the same levels of intensity and majesty he conjured up in the 90s during his period with Kenny Kirkland. If you were lucky enough to catch those two back in the day, no further explanation is necessary. From the looks of this lineup – Benito Gonzalez on piano, Nat Reeves on bass, Ronald Bruner on drums and Rudy Bird on bata – at first glance you might think it’s a latin thing, and although there are some near-equatorial rhythms here, it’s very eclectic.

The opening cut is Boogety Boogety, an upbeat, catchy salsa jazz number inspired by the sounds Garrett’s dad would make while watching western movies. J. Mac Here is where the fun really begins. It’s pure vintage Garrett, a signature intense modal piece where he goes rip-roaring out into the bop-osphere but somehow manages not to lose his grip on a melodic anchor. It’s a dedication to Jackie McLean, eighth-note volleys rising to an anguish/ecstasy dichotomy. Wiggins, for Garrett’s high school band teacher, is funky and catchy but with bite, hints at a ballad and then brings back the funk. Boisterously propulsive, part blues elegy, part joyous singalong, Haynes Here is for Roy Haynes, with whom Garrett enjoyed a long association. Bruner gets a chance to flex yet handles the tempo changes elegantly; Gonzalez contributes an absolutely gorgeous, Marc Cary-esque modal solo.

They follow that with a peaceful, slow alto-and-piano homage to both trumpeter Marcus Belgrave and to Garrett’s hometown of Detroit. The title cut, a classic Garrett mini-epic, sets acidically tuneful soprano sax against moody, incisive piano and a take-charge bass/drums attack – Gonzalez again shines on this one. A joint dedication to Ellington, Monk and Woody Shaw, Du-Wo-Mo follows the same trajectory but takes a little more time to peak out, with several coy allusions to all three jazz masters, alternating insistent intensity with jaunty swing. The tropically percussive Welcome Earth Song takes a long time to get going but finally finds an unselfconsciously beautiful groove carried at first by Gonzalez, who passes it off to Garrett, who then takes it down with a rare warmth for all those low notes. The album ends with the self-explanatory Ballad Jarrett, an understatedly stellar showcase for Gonzalez, and Lavisa, i Bon?, a dedication to Guadalupean guitarist Christian Laviso. Melody, excitement, swing: it’s all here, another notch on the belt for one of this era’s major talents.

May 4, 2012 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment