Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for readers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!

483

Kenny Garrett: Beyond the Wall

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
Sometimes homages can be too reverential. Alto saxophonist Kenny Garrett, with a spiritual energy mirroring a significant influence, John Coltrane, intended to use Beyond the Wall as an opportunity to record with pianist McCoy Tyner, with whom he's shared the bandstand on occasion. Though a scheduling conflict prevented Tyner from participating, his spirit—and that of his late employer—looms large over the project. The result echoes the scope of larger-scale Tyner projects like Asante (Blue Note, 1970) and the fierce modality of middle-period Coltrane.

With Tyner unavailable, Garrett's choice of Mulgrew Miller was inevitable. With so many pianists citing Bill Evans as a primary influence, Miller has defined his career by looking to Tyner for his primary inspiration. Garrett had already tailored his writing on Beyond the Wall to Tyner's distinctive language, so Miller gets to pay tribute but, with a more muscular sound, still speak with his own voice. And direct links are forged on most of the disc, to both Tyner and Coltrane, with the appearances of tenor saxophonist Pharoah Sanders and vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson.

Beyond the Wall came about because of a 2005 visit to mainland China, inspired by Garrett's longstanding interest in the nation's culture and spirituality. He's always been a deeply passionate player who can speak volumes with a single note, and the relentless intensity of the majority of this record makes it the most purely cathartic album he's ever recorded.

Whether it's the out-of-time opening to "Calling," which resolves into a slow 6/8 vamp where Sanders and Garrett solo in tandem, or the up-tempo burn of the title track, everyone is firing on all cylinders. And while the route through Tyner must inherently lead back to Coltrane, Garrett's heads—more fully-realized than Coltrane's relatively short themes—echo Tyner's more compositional approach to setting context for improvisation.

There is some respite, specifically "Realization: Marching Towards the Light)," where a sampled chorus is the pulse that drives the song, and the chamber-like "Tsunami Song," featuring Garrett on piano and a haunting melody played by Guowei Wang on the bowed, two-stringed erhu.

From there it's a gradual buildup from the light funk of "Kiss to the Skies" to the finale, "May Peace Be Upon Them." "Kiss" is one of four songs to feature wordless vocals and, while they're interesting the first few times around, they ultimately feel superfluous. "May Peace" is curiously ambiguous, beginning in a gentle space but leading to an out-of-time whirlpool of sound featuring Garrett at his most visceral.

It's hard to find fault with the deeply emotional ride of Beyond the Wall except, perhaps, in its unrelenting seriousness. Still, with a cast of players this strong, one can forgive its earnestness and revel in performances that bring Tyner's and Coltrane's innovations into the 21st Century.


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

Personnel: Kenny Garrett: alto saxophone (1-4,6-9), piano (5); Pharaoh Sanders: tenor saxophone (1-4,6-8); Mulgrew Miller (1-4,6-9); Robert Hurst, III: bass; Brian Blade: drums; Bobby Hutcherson: vibes (3,4,6,7,8); Ruggerio Boccato: percussion (1,3,4-8); Nedelka Echols: vocals (3,4,6,8); Genea Martin, Kevin Wheatley, Arlene Lewis, Geovanti Steward, Dawn Caveness: vocals (6,8): vocals; Guowei Wang: erhu (5); Jonathan Gandelsman: violin (5); Neil Humphrey: cello (5); Susan Jolles: harp (5).

Title: Beyond The Wall | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Nonesuch Records

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Satoko Fujii Solo CD/LP/Track Review Satoko Fujii Solo
by Karl Ackermann
Published: January 17, 2018
Read when the shade is stretched CD/LP/Track Review when the shade is stretched
by Mark Sullivan
Published: January 17, 2018
Read The Influencing Machine CD/LP/Track Review The Influencing Machine
by Roger Farbey
Published: January 17, 2018
Read Presence CD/LP/Track Review Presence
by Geannine Reid
Published: January 17, 2018
Read Flaneur CD/LP/Track Review Flaneur
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: January 16, 2018
Read D'Agala CD/LP/Track Review D'Agala
by Troy Dostert
Published: January 16, 2018
Read "Spirits" CD/LP/Track Review Spirits
by Geannine Reid
Published: July 2, 2017
Read "Swiss Radio Days, Vol. 40 - Zurich 1959" CD/LP/Track Review Swiss Radio Days, Vol. 40 - Zurich 1959
by Chris M. Slawecki
Published: June 7, 2017
Read "This Is Nate Najar" CD/LP/Track Review This Is Nate Najar
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 26, 2017
Read "The Invariant" CD/LP/Track Review The Invariant
by David Rocheleau-Houle
Published: December 22, 2017
Read "In All My Holy Mountain" CD/LP/Track Review In All My Holy Mountain
by Roger Farbey
Published: February 12, 2017
Read "Beninghove's Hangmen Plays Led Zeppelin" CD/LP/Track Review Beninghove's Hangmen Plays Led Zeppelin
by Chris M. Slawecki
Published: March 23, 2017