498

Kenny Garrett: Beyond the Wall

Troy Collins By

Sign in to view read count
Kenny Garrett: Beyond the Wall Alto saxophonist Kenny Garrett's first recording for Nonesuch, a concept album inspired by a recent trip to China, finds him in the company of an all-star ensemble. A phenomenally gifted soloist with a singular tone and instantly identifiable phrasing, he has walked a fine line between mainstream jazz and more popular forms in the recent past. In previous situations with producer Marcus Miller, Garrett veered dangerously close to watered down smooth jazz. Beyond The Wall remedies this situation.

Incorporating elements of traditional Chinese folk music and modal structures into his animated and funky hard bop compositions, Garrett arrives at a hybrid not far removed from John Coltrane's mid-1960s Eastern meditations. The inclusion of tenor saxophone legend Pharoah Sanders makes the connection to Coltrane's work implicit. Pianist Mulgrew Miller's invocation of McCoy Tyner, with his distinctive comping, further cements the Coltrane vibe.

Reuniting Garrett with inventive drummer Brian Blade, this session harkens back to the raw sound of two of his Warner Bros. releases, Triology (1995) and a Coltrane tribute, Pursuance (1996). Bassist Robert Hurst III and the celebrated vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson, a guest soloist whose buoyant playing adds vitality and color, round out the ensemble.

In the presence of Sanders, Garrett delivers some of the most impassioned statements of his career. Sanders plays mostly straight-ahead, with only minor hints at his extreme past. Sparring with the master on "Calling," Garrett matches his reserved intensity note for note. Garrett's ravishing solo on the concluding "May Peace Be Upon Them" is blissfully cathartic.

Garrett, playing piano, augments "Tsunami Song" with traditional Chinese instruments such as the ehru and a small string section, adding exotic color and texture. Vocalist Nedelka Echols and a handful of back-up singers intone soulful vocalese on a few tracks, and Garrett overdubs chanting Tibetan Monks on "Realization (Marching Toward the Light)." While these touches add to the record's overall Eastern feel, the longer, dominant pieces still reside squarely in the hard bop realm, full of energetic group interplay and rousing solos.

Beyond The Wall stands tall in Garrett's discography. Removed from the lite funk of Happy People (Warner Bros., 2002), it follows his final Warner release, Standard of Language (2003), in quality and intensity. An equitable blend of Eastern meditation and impressive hard bop swing, this album updates the excursions of New Thing-era explorers in subtle but pleasing ways.


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).

Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Nonesuch Records | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


Shop

More Articles

Read June CD/LP/Track Review June
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 19, 2017
Read The Final Concert CD/LP/Track Review The Final Concert
by John Sharpe
Published: February 19, 2017
Read Desire & Freedom CD/LP/Track Review Desire & Freedom
by Glenn Astarita
Published: February 19, 2017
Read On Hollywood Boulevard CD/LP/Track Review On Hollywood Boulevard
by Budd Kopman
Published: February 19, 2017
Read The Motorman's Son CD/LP/Track Review The Motorman's Son
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: February 18, 2017
Read "Morning Glory" CD/LP/Track Review Morning Glory
by Roger Farbey
Published: June 8, 2016
Read "No White Shoes" CD/LP/Track Review No White Shoes
by Mark Sullivan
Published: March 28, 2016
Read "The Edge of Visibility" CD/LP/Track Review The Edge of Visibility
by Jim Olin
Published: April 1, 2016
Read "Birdwatching" CD/LP/Track Review Birdwatching
by Mark Sullivan
Published: April 5, 2016
Read "Forty" CD/LP/Track Review Forty
by James Nadal
Published: May 15, 2016
Read "Odil - Something" CD/LP/Track Review Odil - Something
by Geno Thackara
Published: July 27, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!