Thursday, April 12, 2012

Kenny Garrett - Seeds From the Underground (Mack Avenue, 2012)

Kenny Garrett is a powerful alto saxophonist who began his career as a sideman in the Duke Ellington Orchestra (ghost band) and then a five year mentorship with Miles Davis in the late 1980's. He has had a solo career as a bandleader stretching over two decades in addition to projects like the Five Peace Band supergroup. On this album he returns to his strength playing mostly storming post-bop with a supportive group that includes the leader on alto and soprano saxophones, Benito Gonzalez on piano, Nat Reeves on bass, Ronald Bruner on drums, Rudy Bird on percussion and Nedelka Prescod on vocals. The uptempo songs were my favorites, I love to hear Garrett improvise at speed. I saw him take a breathtaking twenty minute improvised solo at a concert in Princeton a few years back that practically raised the roof. He doesn't disappoint here, giving a nod to Jackie McLean on "J. Mac"where he brings forth the fresh freebop that McLean pioneered in the mid sixties and shows how tart, exploratory improvisation will always be at the heart of jazz. "Seeds from the Underground" seems to be a hat tip to the avant-garde, or at least the Loft Scene of the 1970's where Garrett's gales of saxophone and Gonzalez's piano recall the spirit of McCoy Tyner's explosive early 70's groups. There are some wordless vocals at times like on "Welcome Earth Song" with the scatting fitting in well with the group dynamic and Garrett's soloing. The pace is slowed further for the moody "Ballad Jarrett." It seems that Keith Jarrett was an influence on this music as well, and Gonzalez is particularly impressive. This is a wonderful return to for for Kenny Garrett, and the music recalls fond memories of his classic albums Triology and Pursuance. He's a powerful presence on the modern jazz scene that we need to hear more of. Seeds From the Underground -

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