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A Fireside Chat with Kenny Garrett

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KG: Yes, that was definitely for Woody. I have a lot of tunes for Woody. I have a tune on Black Hope which is called 'Run Run Shaw.' There is a tune on Happy People called 'A Hole in One,' written for Tiger Woods, but in the back of my mind, I am always thinking of Woody Shaw. His influence and his presence is always in my music somehow. Woody Shaw, I think in the community, people definitely knew about him. When I first got to New York and I starting hearing Woody Shaw, I was roommates with Mulgrew Miller and Tony Reedus, who were playing in his band. I got a chance to hear him a lot more probably than other people. The thing that I liked about Woody was that he came from Freddie (Hubbard), but he also, at some point, started to develop his own thing. To me, not only that, he was coming from Trane too. When I think of Woody Shaw, I think of John Coltrane. Harmonically, I think of John Coltrane. It gave me a chance to hear music differently and it was definitely at one of his peaks in his musical career. For me, I really got a chance to hear Woody and to hear him play nights where no one heard him. I have tapes of him when I was screaming, he was playing so much trumpet and then I had an opportunity to play with Woody Shaw and Freddie Hubbard on the Double Take CDs and that was beautiful too, but he wasn't in the same shape as he was when I heard him. He was healthier. He was playing stronger. He was going to Europe a lot. During that time, Woody was playing the most trumpet for me. Even though I love Freddie Hubbard, Woody, just harmonically, he was playing what I wanted to hear at that point.

FJ: In music, as it is in life, those who build you up, ultimately tear you down.

KG: I'm just an artist who is trying to come up with some music and I try not to get caught up into that. I realized that a long time ago. If you play something that they like, they embrace it. If you play something that's a little bit different or a little more experimental, they might not embrace that. The main thing is that when I go to sleep or when I wake up and I look in the mirror, I am fine with myself. I do musically what it is that I feel at the time. I just do that. I don't justify it or explain it. It is just what it is.

FJ: Because a backlash started to swell with portions of Simply Said, culminating with Happy People, which was considered 'smooth jazz.'

KG: I don't know because I didn't pay any mind. I didn't read the articles about that. I just do music. I just put it out there and I know that there are some people who are going to embrace it and there are some people who are not going to embrace it. The main thing is that I am doing what I want to musically. First of all, I think a lot of times, people just don't understand Kenny Garrett as a person. They don't understand that I played with Sting and I played with Guru and I played with Q-Tip, but I also played with the legends of music like Woody Shaw, Freddie Hubbard, and Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers. I have always loved all kinds of music. I think they just kind of missed that or they decided that they wanted to hear a certain thing and that is fine, but I just do what I am feeling at the time and I just let people decide what it is that they want to decide.

FJ: But admittedly Happy People was not merely a 'departure.' There is a reason it received as much airplay as it did from radio stations called 'The Wave.'


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