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Kenny Garrett: Sketches of MD: Live At The Iridium

Mark F. Turner By

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Alto saxophonist Kenny Garrett gives listeners a kaleidoscopic view of his music in this fun live recording. A post-bop saxophonist who performed with Miles Davis during the trumpeter's later fusion/funk years, Garrett has since gone on to make his own name as one of the fiercest players around. In spite of what labels/critics may have desired, he's paving his own multi-colored-brick road. This has included African Exchange Student (Atlantic, 1990), the contemporary jazz friendly Happy People (Warner Brothers, 2002), and Beyond the Wall (Nonesuch, 2006), inspired by a trip to China.

This debut on Mack Avenue was recorded live at New York's Iridium jazz club with Garrett, a top notch quartet (Benito Gonzales (piano), Nat Reeves (bass), Jamire Williams (drums) and special guest, tenor sax patriarch Pharaoh Sanders. While a more relaxed tone is heard here, compared to Garrett's burning playing on Jeff "Tain" Watts' Detained at the Blue Note (Half Note Records, 2004), Garrett's flame still burns hot, albeit more congenially on this date for an appreciative audience.

The many sides of Garrett are on display. A Coltrane-convert, heard on "The Ring" with its familiar modality and spiritualism. Some inspiration from African American church music on "Intro to Africa" where a simple repeating phrase contains its own undeniable spirit (Benito Gonzales' organ/piano playing and Sanders' hymn-like moans) that resonates deep within the marrow or more simply stated, "music that can be felt down to the bone."

A modern day Soul Brother surfaces on the title track complete with synthesizers and electronics as the crowd gets into the simple laid back groove, a nod to Herbie Hancock and Grover Washington's tunes of the 1970s. Regardless of the deep cerebral bend of some jazz music, Garrett and the group knows how to please a crowd as proven on "Wayne's Thing" and "Happy People." The latter creates a party atmosphere with hip danceable music, hand claps, and audience involvement that sums up the title's sentiments—happy people responding to engaging music.

Track Listing: The Ring; Intro To Africa; Sketches Of MD; Wayne's Thang; Happy People.

Personnel: Kenny Garrett: alto saxophone; Benito Gonzales: piano; Nat Reeves: bass; Jamire Williams: drums; Pharaoh Sanders: tenor saxophone.

Title: Sketches of MD: Live At The Iridium | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Mack Avenue Records

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