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Kenny Garrett: Beyond The Wall (2006)

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Kenny Garrett: Beyond The Wall How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Since the release of John Coltrane's A Love Supreme (Impulse!, 1965), only a handful of albums have effectively explored jazz's spiritual aspects while sustaining its exciting secular qualities. Beyond The Wall is a masterful work of original music that succeeds marvelously on both levels, building upon Trane's legacy, as well as the work of the date's two very special guest artists—Pharoah Sanders and Bobby Hutcherson—bolstered by the superb rhythm section of pianist Mulgrew Miller, bassist Robert Hurst, III and drummer Brian Blade.

Garrett and Sanders blend their distinctive instrumental voices on the opening "Calling, an evocative piece suggestive of several Coltrane compositions (as well as Cedar Walton's "Holy Land ), and the title track, a tour de force blowing vehicle on Traneish rhythm changes. Hutcherson's vibraphone augments the group on "Qing Wen and "Realization (Marching Towards The Light), which showcase Garrett's melding of jazz with Far Eastern influences. The two selections also feature the voice of Nedelka Echols, giving them a heavenly quality reminiscent of Hutcherson's Now! (Blue Note, 1969) and Sanders' Journey To The One (Evidence, 1980). The spiritual depth is further enhanced on the latter track with an incisively sampled Tibetan chant.

Garrett spells Miller at the piano in the rhythm section for his stirring "Tsunami Song, a feature for Guowei Wang's erhu (a bowed two-string Chinese instrument) and a string quartet of violin, cello, harp and Hurst's bass. Sanders, Hutcherson, Miller and Echols (joined by five backing vocalists) return on "Kiss To The Skies and "Gwoka —the former an appealing gospel tinged ode, the latter a dancing, African-inflected melody.

In between the group, sans voices, stretches out on the leader's "Now, a Latinish line driven by Blade's exuberant drumming and Rogerio Boccatto's understated percussion. The disc concludes with the moving "May Peace Be Upon Them, a beautiful benediction passionately delivered by Garrett with just the trio—a fitting finish for an important album of music with a majestic message.

Track Listing: Calling; Beyond the Wall; Qing Wen; Realization (Marching Towards the Light; Tsunami Song; Kiss to the Skies; Now; Gwoka; May Peace Be Upon Them.

Personnel: Kenny Garrett: alto saxophone; Pharoah Sanders: tenor saxophone; Bobby Hutcherson: vibraphone; Mulgrew Miller: piano; Robert Hurst: bass; Brian Blade: drums; Nedelka Echols, Dawn Caveness, Earlene Lewis, Genea Martin, Geovanti Steward, Kevin Wheatley: vocals; Susan Jolles: harp; Wang Guowel: erhu; Jonathan Handelsman: violin; Neil Humphrey: cello.

Record Label: Nonesuch Records

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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