Friday, March 9, 2012

Kenny Garrett Seeds From The Underground Mack Avenue 2012

International Release Date 03/13/12
U.S. Street Date 04/10/12

It seems hard to realize Kenny Garrett's career has spanned more than 30 years. Garrett has methodically charted his own course working with such talents as Freddie Hubbard, Woody Shaw, Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers and of course Miles Davis and has ultimately become one of the preeminent alto saxophonists of his generation. Now it's time for a little musical pay back...Garrett returns to the straight ahead acoustic format that allowed him to showcase his remarkable talent and in doing so offers heartfelt acknowledgement to those that have made their own mark and planted their own seeds in Garrett's auspicious career. The bountiful musical harvest that results is one comprised of melody, harmony and rhythm. Kenny Garrett's formidable ensemble is built on communication and trust and the yield is plentiful.

Garrett's focus on melody is unmistakable with "Haynes Here" and "Detroit" which are lyrically driven with a vibrant melodic approach carried through to the improvisational work of pianist Benito Gonzalez on "Haynes Here." Kenny Garrett's keen sense of melody hearkens one back to the Blue Note days and recording of Lou Donaldson and Jackie McClean, an elegant swing with purpose. The controlled fury of drummer Ronald Bruner is the perfect melodic counterpoint to Garrett's ultimate sonic exploratory. "Detroit" takes a more minimalist approach to an evocative melodic feel of thoughts of Garrett's hometown. Somewhere between wistful ballad and a sound scape crafted with melancholy Garrett reveals a sweet soulful spot in his compositional DNA that is simply stunning. Rhythm and meter have caused many a prolific instrumentalist to languish in post bop obscurity as their intention seems to be geared towards the speed is king i.e. flavor of the month category that will gain them the most critical acclaim and subsequent bookings. Garrett takes a far more cerebral approach by skillfully utilizing his command of rhythm and meter for compositional effect more so than post bop pyrotechnics. The addition of percussionist Rudy Bird was a stroke of genius adding a textured percussive nuance reminiscent of some earlier work by McCoy Tyner or a slight articulated Thelonious Monk sound. Garrett's ensembles shifts dynamics as well as meter on the fly for engaging compositions and layers of improvisational texture. Global influence make an appearance on Seeds From The Underground with the African-influenced "Welcome Earth Song." Another harmonic gem is "Ballad Jarrett" a haunting tune that showcases Garrett's prolific talents on soprano saxophone.

While the shift to a more back to basics approach is typical of the variety Garrett is known for, it is the open ended approach in presentation that takes a good release and transforms it to something truly great. Garrett continues to draw from a myriad of influence while remaining a musical open book. An artist comfortable with who he is and where he is headed. We should all be so lucky.

A stellar 5 Star release.

Tracks: Boogety Boogety; J. Mac; Wiggins; Haynes Here; Detroit; Seeds From The Underground; Du-Wo-Mo; Welcome Earth Song; Ballad Jarrett; Laviso, I Bon?

Personnel: Kenny Garrett: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, piano; Benito Gonzalez: piano; Nat Reeves: bass; Ronald Bruner: drums; Rudy Bird: bata, percussion; Nedelka Prescod: vocals.

Photo Credit Keith Major

Special thanks to Jordy at DL Media!