Beware the wild swing of saxophonist Kenny Garrett. It is splendidly hypnotic and is the kind that seizes the wandering soul guiding it into a realm of rocking rhythm. Mr. Garrett’s album, Seeds from the Underground features the saxophonist playing music that is intellectually brilliant, and deeply moving throughout.
His tone is vibrant and strong, and it cuts through the air like a musical zephyr wielding mighty power to sooth the proverbial, savage breast. Mr. Garrett also plays with superb intonation, and shows such mastery of colour and texture as to spread his music on a canvas with a magnificent range of hues and touch that speaks instantly of virtuoso mastery of both alto and soprano saxophones. The saxophonist has also grown into a singular voice that has grown out of his deep sense of Afro-centricity, which is, in turn, drenched in the blues. On this record, Mr. Garrett also experiences the angularity of Latin-American rhythms and its riotous harmonic colours with an authentic sense of musicality.
By his own admission, Mr. Garrett pays deep homage on this record to those musical ancestors who gave him the freedom to fly. This he does with a reverent sense of dedication and creativity, melding delightful harmonies in with mesmerising melodies that show him to be one of the most gifted composers in music today. Mr. Garrett’s music is also sensuous and given to elemental swing; the kind that propelled him into the Duke Ellington Orchestra directed with Mercer Ellington, and into the bands of Freddy Hubbard, Miles Davis and other icons of contemporary music. But it is not so much that this is an album of dedicatory music; it is also a book of music that is soaring, ebullient and sets the soul free. Its melodies are heartfelt and resonate with echoes of the mighty blues and jazz that made this music great. In many ways this music is also reminiscent of the music of when John Coltrane was at his height of exploration of the great unknown in music. Mr. Garrett may not go as far, mixing musical distortions with linear melodies, but he certainly reaches deep into his own soul playing music that is dictated by its cries and wails no less.
Some of the most memorable songs on this record that are played in that vein are the aching ballad, “Detroit” and “Welcome Earth Song”. Mr. Garrett’s playing on both these pieces of music are absolutely magnificent and worthy of putting him in a pantheon where his elders rest. Not only are the melodies eternal, Mr. Garrett plays them as if they are the very utterances of his heart and soul. The addition of the voice of Nedelka Prescod here is also a stroke of genius as Ms. Prescod adds a celestial quality to the music that would otherwise not be there without her. On “Seeds from the Underground” Mr. Garrett strikes with a masterstroke, playing the lead on soprano, where he inhabits the upper registers of his instrument seeming to coax the music from its guts through both excruciating pain and boundless joy.
The presence of pianist Benito González adds a great sense of drama throughout the album as does the percussion colourings of both Ronald Bruner and Rudy Bird, who is spectacular on batá drums and all sorts of percussion as well. And, of course, bassist Nat Reeves does more than merely anchor the rhythm along with Mr. González. In fact, Mr. Reeves is one of those melodic bassists who always adds to the haunting songs by driving the music into unexpected realms also adding wonderfully bold harmonics every time he hovers around the root notes of his ever so interesting chords.
Seeds from the Underground is one of those classic albums that contributes mightily to the literature of jazz just as many of the albums that inspired Mr. Garrett did in the first place. It also predicts great things to come from this exceptionally talented musician.
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 and soprano saxophones, piano; Benito González: piano; Nat Reeves: bass; Ronald Bruner: drums; Rudy Bird: batá drums, percussion; Nedelka Prescod: vocals.
Kenny Garrett on the Web: www.kennygarrett.com
Label: Mack Avenue Records
Release date: April 2012
Reviewed by: Raul da Gama