Day 5 - Festival International de Jazz de Montreal, July 2, 2006
Sets like these are why one goes to festivals abroad. The chance to see such a compelling performance - one that would probably never travel outside of Canada - and one that is, even better, an unknown quantity, is extremely valuable.
The final set of the evening was your correspondent's first at the Spectrum, which traditionally is a rock club. As a result, the Festival tries to book acts that have broad appeal and whose sound can fill the large space. Saxophonist Kenny Garrett may have been the most ideal choice for the space since Pat Martino brought his organ trio in a few years back. Garrett's quartet began playing even before the curtain was fully opened and for thirty minutes, over two songs, maintained a rather amazing energy level that elicited roars and cheers from the packed house. The intensity of the music recalled other saxophonists David Murray or David S. Ware but the tunes were vamp and riff-style pieces that allowed for multiple choruses of powerful blowing for the group (even the bassist!). The second piece was slightly mellower, but soon it too became a wailing maelstrom set over funk backbeats.
What everyone wants is crossover appeal and Garrett provides molten lava bursts of it. What was unfortunate was that he chose to end his first of two sets with two piano/soprano sax duets, whose aesthetic was almost that of pop ballads. Everyone in the audience expected this to be merely a short breather before more bombast but Garrett unceremoniously ended the set (after the whole band came back on stage). Crossover is one thing but momentum is another.