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Jazz - Released August 25, 2006 | Nonesuch

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On his first offering in three years, Kenny Garrett delivers the album that has been promised since his very auspicious debut Introducing Kenny Garrett back in 1984. On Beyond the Wall, the saxophonist and composer has continued his deep exploration of modal jazz. The album is dedicated to McCoy Tyner, the king and progenitor of modal pianists, and it sounds as if Garrett observed that tutelage well, though the music is unmistakably his own. The core band on the set features drummer Brian Blade, bassist Robert Hurst, and Mulgrew Miller on piano. Pharoah Sanders and Bobby Hutcherson appear on all but two of these nine cuts (Sanders appears on these, the pair on five). The beautiful introductory "Calling" that opens the set features Garrett and Sanders playing long, droning, Eastern-mode lines, threatening to explode at each moment as Miller takes a couple of pages of Tyner's book and hovers over both the front line and the rhythm section. On the title cut, Garrett's longstanding love affair with hard bop comes popping in the front door as Miller's solo goes deep into sharp arpeggios, playing in an augmented mode à la Freddie Redd, while never losing his own sense of elegance as the front-line players take him on in the head. Garrett's solo carries within it some of the circular techniques he learned from Trane's records, but keeps its bop angles sharp and tough. And Sanders? Well, he's Pharoah, baby; what do y'all think he's gonna do? He answers tough and true, going for the one taking his cues from Miller and Hurst and playing up and around them full-force; he proves effortlessly that those few critics who claim he's lost it as an improviser are simply batshit. The interplay between Hutcherson and Miller is particularly tender and poignant on "Qing Wen," with its Eastern/Latin, melodic/rhythmic fusion. The melody and harmony between the two saxophonists is simply gorgeous. Vocalist Nedelka Echols and percussionist Rogerio Boccato help out on this one. It's circular, with the rhythm always at the center, everything points back to it, including the lyric. The sampling of Tibetan monks chanting the "Ornament for Clear Realization" would sound hokey on a lot of records, but the way Miller builds from the Eastern mode of the monks ushers in this cut with the same lineup. Garrett's alto simply rings as Sanders plays under in a more guttural -- but no less clear -- utterance. The six-strong vocal chorus on "Kiss to the Skies" melds seamlessly with Miller and Hutcherson, as Miller spins his lines out adding another singing voice (the chorus also appears on "Gwoka"). The final track, "May Peace Be Upon Them," is down to the basic quartet playing a mid-tempo ballad with skittering drum work from Blade playing all around the time, but never through it. Once again, modalism is the frame on which the melody is hung, and Hurst is the player who keeps it all focused on the beat returning no matter where Garrett goes in his flight. His playing is actually transcendent here, full of emotion and heart as it climbs around Miller's piano, leaving room for Blade to shift and shimmer on the edges. In the final moments, as Garrett bleats and shouts and chants with his horn, the intense melodic nature of his best improvising bring the blues home to visit from Africa and extends them to the protean, mystical East. This is Garrett's strongest moment in an already enduring career; it's fully realized compositionally, and in terms of its arrangements and its playing, it's virtually flawless without sacrificing emotion or creative intent or aesthetic vision. Simply put, it's his masterpiece. ~ Thom Jurek

Cool Jazz - Released May 16, 1997 | Warner Jazz

Songbook is the first release by alto saxophonist Kenny Garrett to feature his frequent touring quartet -- pianist Kenny Kirkland, drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts and bassist Nat Reeves -- on a program that consists entirely of Garrett's own compositions. Always inventive, curious, daring, and exuberant, Garrett's Songbook proves him worthy of the alto legacy that most people (both fans and musicians) seem to agree he carries, as he demonstrates what sounds like the uncanny ability to play two-faced -- one face looking forward to the freshness of new concepts and creations as yet undiscovered, yet with another face which simultaneously looks back to the fine, fierce alto tradition of Phil Woods and Charlie Parker. The band stretches out luxuriously in the Miles Davis tribute "Before It's Time to Say Goodbye," this first recording of Garrett's perennial in-concert crowd pleaser "Sing a Song of Song," "Ms. Baja" and "Brother Hubbard," and Garrett simply sounds like a true master. Garrett also pays tribute to Woody Shaw with "Wooden Steps." ~ Chris Slawecki

Jazz - Released June 25, 1996 | Warner Jazz

Pursuance: Music Of John Coltrane is Kenny Garrett's tribute to John Coltrane. Working with musicians like Pat Metheny, Brian Blade, and Rodney Whitaker, Garrett creates a loving tribute, one that is respectful to Coltrane's legacy but one that doesn't mimic his sound. It's a moving record that reveals more layers every time you listen to it. ~ Thom Owens

Jazz - Released February 16, 2010 | Warner Jazz

As of 2002, Kenny Garrett had spent a decade recording for Warner Bros., with Happy People being his seventh release for the major label. That was a remarkable accomplishment in an era when, to succeed, it seemed that jazz musicians either had to adopt pop-oriented contemporary jazz as their style or, if they stayed in a traditional mode, be, uh, dead. Garrett remained very much alive, but Happy People demonstrated the strategies that the alto saxophonist had developed to maintain his precarious status. Basically, he took a little from both of those successful approaches. As on his previous album, Simply Said, he employed Marcus Miller on a selective basis as an electric bassist, also promoting Miller to co-producer. Miller, who knew his way around contemporary jazz, helped turn the opening track, "Song for DiFang," into the kind of number that potentially could be played on smooth jazz radio stations. And those stations probably also would feel at home with the title track, slotted second in the album's sequence, which featured vocals by Jean Norris. Indeed, if you stopped listening there, you'd classify Happy People as a contemporary jazz album. But Garrett turned gradually more traditional as the album went on, and he also supplied signposts to his illustrious (and dead) predecessors, humorously imitating former employer Miles Davis' harsh whisper of a voice at the start of "Ain't Nothing but the Blues," dedicating "Monk-ing Around" to Thelonious Monk, and, in the closing track, "Brother B. Harper," which nominally concerned saxophonist Billy Harper, actually sounding much more like John Coltrane. What kept Happy People from being a compromised effort was Garrett's always-impressive playing, but it was certainly a record that carefully touched a lot of bases. ~ William Ruhlmann

Jazz - Released May 4, 1995 | Warner Jazz

Kenny Garrett is among the most fervent, committed young voices to emerge on the alto saxophone. As a creative improviser and solo voice, he ranks right up there with those originals seeking to extend on the alto's proud history in the post-Coltrane era. His playing also compares favorably with the classic work of older masters. But then Garrett is already a youthful veteran, with distinguished pedigrees in the Duke Ellington Orchestra, Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers and Miles Davis' final working groups. Garrett's last Warner Bros. release, BLACK HOPE, presented him in varied programmatic settings--from heady jazz-funk to hard bopping blues. TRIOLOGY exposes him as never before, in a revealing trio setting with the swinging young drummer Brian Blades and bassist Kiyoshi Kitagawa. The trio format forces the enterprising saxophonist to create all the harmonic and melodic tension by himself. And with his tart throaty tone, cutting attack, bluesy contours and harmonic fluidity, Garrett is more than able to sustain interest. On "Delfeayo's Dilemma," "Pressing The Issue" and "What Is This Thing Called Love?" he rises to the challenge of thorny chord changes and breakneck tempos with tremendous rhythmic intensity and lyric wit. Garrett is also a convincing ballad player, as his tender reading of "A Time For Love" and his little soft shoe through "In Your Own Sweet Way" demonstrate. His tone at times suggests the brawny alto work of Julius Hemphill and Jackie McLean, yet Garrett's main influences seem to be tenor men such as John Coltrane and Wayne Shorter, whom he honors with a driving "Giant Steps" and a sanctified "Wayne's Thang."

Cool Jazz - Released June 18, 1999 | Warner Jazz

Since his late teens, Kenny Garrett has lived the kind of life most musicians only fantasize about. He's been a sideman for legends like Miles Davis, Art Blakey, Freddie Hubbard, Woody Shaw, and the Duke Ellington Orchestra. Emerging in the mid-'80s as one of contemporary jazz's most exciting and eclectic new solo artists, the saxophonist's albums have earned him worldwide recognition, four-star reviews, and top spots on reader polls and Rolling Stone's "hot list." Known for years primarily for his adventurous playing and sparkling improvisations, Garrett finally came into his own as a composer with his 1997 Grammy-nominated Warner Bros. release Songbook -- his first album comprised entirely of his own compositions. The concept behind Simply Said, Garrett's latest Warner Jazz release, must have been to further reflect his growth as a songwriter, keeping memorable melodies as the focus while exploring -- as the stylistically diverse performer has always done -- new exotic, rhythmic possibilities within the jazz framework. While Garrett has been very successful in the past covering the classics of influential artists (as he did on his previous Warners projects, 1993's Black Hope, 1995's Triology, and 1996's Pursuance: Music of John Coltrane), his growth as a songwriter has unleashed a desire to journey beyond what people might expect based on past projects. While Garrett kept his playing simple on lush, hypnotic ballads like "Can I Just Hold Your Hand?," "Sounds Like Winter," and "Words Can't Express," he and his core unit of gospel pianist/organist Shedrick Mitchell, acoustic bassist Nat Reeves, and drummer Chris Dave can't help but stir up the fires of the unexpected throughout the rest of the collection. Playful titles like "Organized Colors" (a nearly ten-minute piece incorporating a multitude of shades from silky and seductive to swinging and percussive), "Delta Bali Blues," "G.T.D.S" (aka "Give the Drummer Some"), and the whimsical piano, sax, and percussion jam "Charlie Brown Goes to South Africa" reflect the spirit Garrett was after here. Simply Said also features guest appearances by drummer Jeff Watts, electric bassist Marcus Miller ("G.T.D.S"), and Pat Metheny (who plays an atypical harmony role on "Yellow Flower" and "Sounds Like Winter"). ~ Jonathan Widran

Jazz - Released September 4, 1992 | Warner Jazz

Alto saxophonist Kenny Garrett hasn't been as heavily publicized as his fellow young lions, but he can play with as much authority, conviction, and sheer energy as anyone. Only some uneven material keeps his '92 album from being exceptional, and even on the weak songs, Garrett's playing forces you to pay attention. ~ Ron Wynn

Jazz - Released October 7, 2014 | West Wind

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Jazz - Released September 25, 1990 | Atlantic Jazz

Altoist Kenny Garrett, who was then a key member of Miles Davis' group, had one of his strongest early sets as a leader on this Atlantic disc. "Ja-Hed" features his post-bop improvising over the chord changes of "Impressions," the is both lighthearted and adventurous on "Mack the Knife" and the title cut has Garrett expertly building up an emotional solo from intense long tones to sound explorations and late period 'Trane screams. Throughout the CD, Kenny Garrett's alto is the main attraction but the strong rhythm section (comprised of pianist Mulgrew Miller, either Charnett Moffett or Ron Carter on bass, Tony Reedus or Elvin Jones on drums and occasional percussionists) should not be overlooked. Whether it be the modal tribute piece "Shaw," the rarely played Coltrane song "Straight Street" or the minor blues "Nostradamus," Kenny Garrett justifies the praise that he received from Miles Davis. ~ Scott Yanow