You’ve reached a Premium article. To continue reading, please login or start a 3-MONTH TRIAL SUBSCRIPTION for just 99 cents/month. You’ll receive unlimited digital access plus a complimentary issue of our award-winning print magazine.
Join Our Newsletter
Join thousands of other jazz enthusiasts and get new music, artists, album, events and more delivered to your inbox.
Thirty-seven years after alto saxophonist Kenny Garrett’s first of 20 releases, he remains the embodiment of aggressive blowing. However, the segue from young incendiary to middle elder has manifested in Garrett’s musical expansion into a sizable amount of lyricism, leading to the duality in his playing heard here. Sounds From the Ancestors seems to illuminate two disparate approaches, with most tracks placing greater emphasis on Garrett’s composing and arranging skills than his saxophone soloing. West African influences abound, while a dedication titled “Roy Hargrove” covers an R&B/hip-hop groove heard on the late trumpeter’s RH Factor releases. Throughout five of eight tunes, Garrett’s improvisations are relegated to a more succinct, lyrical style.
Case in point are bookending takes on “It’s Time To Come Home.” On the opening version, Garrett sets a diasporic preamble for the project with a percussion-laden 6/8 Afro-Cuban beat. The simple lithe melody, harmonized by Jean Taylor’s wordless vocal, floats on top of the song’s pulsating groove in sing-song fashion. Garrett’s eventual alto improvisation maintains the melody’s lyrical simplicity. Midway through the song, the melody returns, supplanted by Garrett’s unique use of his saxophone as a breathy percussive instrument. The closing version (not an outtake) is reduced from septet to his stellar quintet — pianist Vernell Brown Jr., bassist Corcoran Holt, drummer Ronald Bruner and percussionist Rudy Bird — with similarly relaxed results.
The three remaining cuts offer more aggressive blowing, oft considered Garrett’s forte (pun intended). Opening with Garrett’s solo piano intro — he’s heard overdubbing keys throughout this release — the title track segues into a loping 6/8 with vocal cries from Dwight Trible and Yoruban lyrics by percussionist Pedrito Martinez. Garrett comes on strong, blowing his trademark full-toned alto with the deliberate and exciting intensity he unveiled as a sideman with Miles Davis back in the 1980s. — James Rozzi https://open.spotify.com/album/1PjB6iaRaTUUwdwDmzTNFd?si=Tjp57kw1Rhat99xcQ3oSog
Featured photo: Hollis King