All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

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

Related Articles

Read Dawn CD/LP/Track Review
Dawn
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: May 27, 2018
Read Life Of CD/LP/Track Review
Life Of
by Mark Sullivan
Published: May 27, 2018
Read Downtown Castles Can Never Block The Sun CD/LP/Track Review
Downtown Castles Can Never Block The Sun
by Gareth Thompson
Published: May 27, 2018
Read Enso CD/LP/Track Review
Enso
by Mark Corroto
Published: May 27, 2018
Read Let Your Light Shine On CD/LP/Track Review
Let Your Light Shine On
by Chris May
Published: May 27, 2018
Read Dirt...And More Dirt CD/LP/Track Review
Dirt...And More Dirt
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: May 26, 2018
Read "Soliloquy" CD/LP/Track Review Soliloquy
by Don Phipps
Published: November 28, 2017
Read "Vintage Christmas Trio" CD/LP/Track Review Vintage Christmas Trio
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: December 3, 2017
Read "Here Comes the Sun" CD/LP/Track Review Here Comes the Sun
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: February 6, 2018
Read "Zero" CD/LP/Track Review Zero
by Mark Corroto
Published: April 16, 2018
Read "Quiet Life" CD/LP/Track Review Quiet Life
by Glenn Astarita
Published: November 5, 2017
Read "Live" CD/LP/Track Review Live
by Roger Farbey
Published: September 9, 2017