The glowing reviews have already begun to pour in for saxophonist Kenny Garrett's newest release, Standard of Language - a recording of substantial quality, and a reaffirmation of Garrett's place among the best in jazz today. But as good as Garrett may be, it's the collective power of the ensemble that's most significant here. With pianist Vernell Brown, bassist Charnett Moffett and drummer Chris Dave, Garrett has assembled a quartet capable of barnstorming swing as well as balladeering tenderness.
The group opens the set with an energetic, velocity-ridden interpretation of "What Is This Thing Called Love?" Garrett's alto bobs and weaves down the song's melodic path while the others follow closely behind, adding poignant fills and accents to his every whim. Following the opener are eight tracks composed by Garrett, covering a wide range of forms and moods.
On "Kurita Sensei," for instance, the group establishes a merciless collective drive and thus sets the scene for inspired solos by both Garrett (now on soprano) and Brown. With "Just a Second to Catch My Breath," on the other hand, the mood shifts from power to gentleness. The swing is tender and easy, and, as with all good ballads, narrowly eludes sentimentality.
The set concludes with the title track, which is broken into three movements and spans near twelve minutes. A fitting compendium, the piece encompasses all the energy and temperament of the music that precedes it, while also establishing an open-ended foundation for future recordings.
What's most impressive about Standard of Language is how Garrett and company manage to straddle all three dimensions of human life: past, present and future. While the language spoken is that of traditional modern jazz, the dialect is undeniably current, and at times hints at things to come. A well-rounded session indeed...
Track Listing: 1. What Is This Thing Called Love? (Porter) - 7:44
2. Kurita Sensei (Garrett) - 4:23
3. Xyz (Garrett) - 6:17
4. Native Tounge (Garrett) - 5:09
5. Chief Blackwater (Garrett) - 4:52
6. Doc Tone's Short Speech (Garrett) - 5:50
7. Just a Second to Catch My Breath (Garrett) - 4:44
8. Gendai (Garrett) - 7:57
9. Standard of Language I II III (Garrett) - 11:11
Personnel: Vernell Brown, Jr. - Piano
Chris Daddy Dave - Drums
Kenny Garrett - Arranger, Sax (Alto), Sax (Soprano), Producer
Charnett Moffett - Bass
Eric Harland - Drums