Kenny Garrett at Blues Alley
Wednesday, October 22, 2008 at 10:08AM
Stephen Brookes

By Stephen Brookes • October 17, 2008


he alto saxophonist Kenny Garrett has long been known for his adventurous, forceful explorations into everything from hard bop to serious funk. There’s an eruptive power to his playing that can be almost overwhelming, but he rarely wastes a note or throws away a phrase, soloing with the intensity – and unstoppable logic – of a volcano.

 All that firepower was on display Thursday night at Blues Alley, where Garrett opened a four-night run with one of the take-no-prisoners rhythm sections he’s long favored.  Drawing largely on material from his new release, “Sketches of MD: Live at the Iridium”, Garrett turned in a ferocious but almost joyful set – from the exuberant meditations of “Intro to Africa” (which opened the evening) to the playful, township-flavored rhythms of one of his earlier works, “Charlie Brown Goes to South Africa.”  And for all its physicality (the dance beat of “Happy People” is pretty much irresistible), it was a night of thoughtful, imaginative and profoundly warm playing.

Much of the credit goes to Garrett’s band, particularly Corey Henry, a gifted organist whose chimerical and wildly inventive solos drew on everything from bop to gospel to film noir on acid, and Kona Khashu, who provided solid support on the bass.  But Garrett seemed to be most in tune with drummer Ronald Brunner.  Laying down a complex, intricate (and sometimes impenetrable) beat, Brunner provided Garrett with a high-energy foundation, and the two often faced each other to play. When they did, the electricity was palpable – and the music soared. 

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