Thursday, August 11, 2016

Kenny Garrett - Do Your Dance (Mack Avenue, 2016)

Alto saxophonist (and occasional pianist) Kenny Garrett's Do Your Dance is a wide ranging mainstream jazz album featuring Ronald Bruner and McLenty Hunter on drums, Rudy Bird on percussion, Vernell Brown on piano and Corcoran Holt on bass. Garrett noticed that several audience members were spontaneously getting up to dance during his live performances and elected to compose for this album with that idea in mind. The album is bookended by tracks that show Garrett and the group at their finest, playing modern hard bop at a very high level and at a fever pitch. "Philly" begins the album initially in a reflective mood before bursting into a ferocious improvisation that reminds me of the time I saw him live and he nearly blew the roof off of a small theater on the Princeton University campus. When playing this kind of post bop Garrett has a thrillingly tart and biting tone that makes this and "Backyard Groove" really burn, keeping the music streaming forward in an exciting fashion before things take an abrupt turn with "Wheatgrass Shot (Straight to the Head) where the music takes upon a subtler tone to allow hip-hop artist Mista Enz to develop a spontaneous rap over the music. It's a bit of a shock, but Enz's forcefully spoken declaration meshes admirably with the music. Garrett and the group then take the music in a milder direction, with the undoubtably danceable "Waltz (3 Sisters)," "Bossa" and "Calypso Chant" before returning to the great hard hitting modern jazz of "Chasing the Wind" which ends the album in a very exciting fashion. During his interview with Downbeat for the September 2016 cover feature, Garrett noted that he has been evolving musically to a more accessible approach which can certainly be seen over his last several albums as he has gradually moved from the extraordinary post-modern jazz of albums like Triology and Pursuance to albums like this one where he attempts to reconcile the urge to relentlessly explore with a more tempered groove oriented approach that can appeal to a wider more mainstream audience outside of the jazz cognoscenti. Do Your Dance! -

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