A Mixed Bag: Kenny Garrett on Nonesuch Wednesday, Dec 6 2006 

Kenny Garrett. Beyond the Wall. 2006. Nonesuch Records.

garrett

4.0

1. Calling

2. Beyond the Wall

3. Qing Wen

4. Realization (Marching Towards the Light)

5. Tsunami Song

6. Kiss to the Skies

7. Now

8. Gwoka

9. May Peace Be Upon Them

 

Kenny Garrett: Alto Saxophone

Pharoah Sanders: Tenor Saxophone

Mulgrew Miller: Piano

Robert Hurst, III: Bass

Brian Blade: Drums

Ruggerio Boccato: Percussion

Bobby Hutcherson: Vibes

+ Nedelka Echols: Vocals, Susan Jolles: Harp, Neil Humphrew: Cello, Jonathan Gandelsma: Violin, Guowei Wang: Erhu.

 

What a tease this record was. It came with high praise from a lot of sources and landed happily on my desk this morning. Garrett has never been my favorite, and Nonesuch records is good for almost nothing. But this disk has Pharoah and friends, and looked like a more spiritual, experimental, cultural excursion. At first I seemed to be right. The first track, Calling, is damn near fantastic. It’s medatative, it’s simple, it builds. Garrett and Sanders both play beautifully. Brain Blade, who can make literally anything wail (see his recordings with Joni Mitchell to prove the point), brings fantastic energy. I couldn’t make myself work along to the music as I put my feet up to let myself truly take this one in. Certainly a track I’ll use for radio play, and a cut that made me think Garrett had reached a new zenith.

 

The title-track follows. Miller gives a pretty straight-forward, chord-based, Tyner-esque solo, but it takes Garrett coming in for the track to get its fire. There have been thousands of Coltrane inspired tracks just like it, but its solid nonetheless.

 

It’s on the next track, Qing Wen, that the record wallows to its final sap-ballad resting place. The smooth Nonesuch production made me put my feet down and give the disc a second thought. The track is way too drawn out, but I suppose it’s pretty enough. The Nonesuch sound continues on Realization (Marching Towards The Light), a weird chanting number. Following that the record comes to its true low points: Tsunami Song and then, even lower, Kiss to the Skies. Tsunami Song is no better than music I would expect to hear at a cheap asian joint. Kiss the Skies has almost nothing to it. The record raises its head again for Now, which showcases one of Garrett’s hardest hitting solos. The record puts its head back down for the forgettable Gwoka and May Peace Be Upon Them.

 

Still can’t get into Garrett, but at least I tried. And with one truly memorable track to take out of the experience, it wasn’t all for naught.

 

 

 

 

 

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WSRN Jazz Playlist: New Addition: Calmed Beauty from Ware and Friends Wednesday, Dec 6 2006 

My friend Caleb and I keep up the jazz playlist at WSRN FM (wsrnfm.org). He did some shopping and added some new releases, a few of which are working their way into my heart. Here’s the first recomendation for cutting new jazz:

The David S. Ware Quartet. Balladware. 2006. Thirsty Ear Records (the blue series)

david s. ware

8.0

1. Yesterdays

2. Dao

3. Autumn Leaves

4. Godspelized

5. Sentient Compassion

6. Tenderly

7. Angel Eyes

David. S. Ware: Tenor Saxophone

Mathew Shipp: Piano

William Parker: Bass

Guillermo E. Brown: Drums

I was certainly surprised to see this one on the shelf. Ware is known as an extraordinarily hard-hitting, free improvising servant of Lord Ganesh. A Ballads album certainly doesn’t fit with anything that comes before it in his work, but, it turns out, that’s a good thing. While I love some of his earlier albums (Aquarian Sound being one of my favorites), this is a particularly interesting glance into his creative process. Strip away the sometimes epic wailing sessions, go so far “in” as to include some standards, and this is what you’re left with.

The two original compositions on the backside of the disc are my favorites (Godspelized and Sentient Compassion), but I plan to absorb each of the tracks on this beautiful disc again and again. Ware demonstrates the outer realms to which standards can be pushed and the continued relevance of his own composition. Now we’re got a Ware for every moood. Or, well, two moods. Firey, screaming Ware shows up again and again. Now we’ve got a softer Ware to wake up to, study to, make love to. I dig it hard.