I remember the first time seeing Kenny Garrett- he was performing at a club in LA, some 20 odd years ago with a group that included saxophonist Courtney Pine, drummer Jeff Watts and Charnett Moffett (?) on bass. i remember them playing “Giant Steps” r-e-a-l-l-y fast. the energy the band generated was nothing short of incredible. as a young player, just getting my musical feet wet, i was extremely moved by that show to say the least. i remember thinking that if they kept up the intense energy and swing they generated that night, they might just rip that club right off of its foundations and send it hurtling into space. then there was another show i saw him do in NYC. at one point during a solo, he hit a high note with one hand, rummaged through his pocket with the other, pulled out a lighter and held it high in the air like he was at a Van Halen concert or something. it didn’t strike me as being the least bit cheesy though because the entire room was right there with him, just as caught up in the energy and groove as he was. i’m just glad he kept the lighter fluid at home. being a lover of sports, i am naturally attracted to the physical aspect of a musician’s performance. Garrett has an incredible stamina which is evident in his recordings and live shows. he always moves when he plays, a hypnotic bob and weave. that combined with that raw wail of a sound he pulls out of his horn. the thing he puts on his sound is so difficult to describe, but it’s the same thing i hear in Coltrane and Booker Little, Monk and Ornette: a glowing aura that surrounds the  initial sound, an aftertaste that doesn’t always sit on the palate easily, but must be imbibed because it is beneficial to a listener’s health… “Liberia” is a track off of Garret’s record, PURSUANCE: THE MUSIC OF JOHN COLTRANE.  like some, i have my issues with the synthesizer-ish guitar of Pat Metheny but i can overlook it because, his sound aside, i often enjoy his ideas and his comping. drummer Brian Blade and bassist Rodney Whitaker bring the heat to what is overall a very, very good recording. “Liberia” is essentially a 40 bar modal song with an AABA form. there is a 16 bar tag that is played after the initial melody and after each solo. the 8 bar A sections feature a harmony that basically moves between a five and a one chord, one measure each, in the key of D minor. the bass player often stays on an A rather than moving to D. the last 2 measures of the A sections employs a two-five-one progression, also in the key of D minor. the B section is 16 bars long and contains a static E7(#9)-ish chord. after the last A section, the harmony moves to G for the 16 bar tag, which features a series of moving chords over an ostinato bass line. Garrett takes the first solo break and never lets up. what i enjoy so much about him besides his intensity is the deep pocket he’s able to generate and the friction in his sound, similar to altoist Jackie Maclean, because of where he places his sound in relation to the other voices. he plays slightly “out” of tune, the dissonance creating heat and tension. there are times during his solo where he bends his notes so much that they sound like micro tones. his confidence and force of will most often make those sounds seem just right. i’m still a big fan of Kenny Garrett although i don’t listen to him as much with a musician’s ear, that is, analytically. there was a time when i studied his playing intensely- the Mulgrew Miller date, WINGSPAN, his debut on Criss Cross records, INTRODUCING KENNY GARRETT, his work with the group OTB, Donald Byrd, Miles Davis, etc. i put his records away when i heard, once too often, someone include in their comments about my sax playing, “you check out a lot of Kenny Garrett, don’t you?” still, he’s a HUGE inspiration because of his energy, sound and swing…


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13. February 2010 by james
Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 1 comment

One Comment

  1. Thank you. It’s a brilliant solo.

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