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Beyond the Wall

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Kenny Garrett, All About Jazz

Beyond the Wall Kenny Garrett | Nonesuch Records (2006) By Troy Collins comments print email license 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 straightahead, 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. Visit Kenny Garrett on the web. Kenny Garrett at All About Jazz. 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 (

Not Garrett's best

Although by far Kenny Garrett's most adventurous album to date, it is not nearly the caliber of his previous works. At times melodies, praticularly Qing Wen, are cliche, and based entirely on pentatonics. Realization is, at best, superfluous, and has no musical relation to the rest of the album. Including Pharoah Sanders on several songs is a questionable musical choice as well. Despite his obvious talents, Sanders style is far from Garretts, and he seems out of his comfort zone. There are, however, several exceptional moments. Garrett's solo on Qing Wen is spectacular, blending his newfound inluences and traditional inspirations flawlessly. Kiss to the Skies also features great playing by all of the members of he group, and Tsunami Song is one of the few truly great compositions seen here. Overall, while the album is solid, there are by far better examples of Kenny Garrett's incredible talent. Songbook and Triology come to ming, as well as Pursuance and Standard of Language.

Deep

Kenny Garrett, like other jazz giants from past, can truly combine and melt assetts from different types of music and make them into his own thing. This album is one of his best.

Biography

Born: October 9, 1960 in Detroit, MI

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Although saxophonist, bandleader, and composer Kenny Garrett never had the benefit of a college education, that hasn't hurt his career as a jazz musician one bit. Garrett has released a number of critically acclaimed albums for the Warner Bros. label and, prior to the birth of his recording career, earned his master's degree in the jazz clubs in and around his native Detroit. Garrett's father was a carpenter who played tenor saxophone as an avocation. He got his first saxophone as an eight-year-old...
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Beyond the Wall, Kenny Garrett
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  • $9.99
  • Genres: Jazz, Music
  • Released: Aug 25, 2006

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