Listen Up: Wednesday, April 24, 2003
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Kenny Garrett

Standard of Language (Warner Bros.)

By Michael Pellecchia

On Standard of Language, Kenny Garrett’s latest, the saxophonist focuses on the architecture of post-bop, giving us not only glamorous entrances and well-connected spaces but also a few nuts and bolts to remind us that the basics of form are often concealed.

Recorded mostly between September and December 2001, these nine tracks (one a three-part suite) quickly present their form, mission, statements, and recapitulations. Much less quickly, the listener really hears this happen after repeated listenings.

Garrett, pianist Vernell Brown, bassist Charnett Moffett, and drummer Chris Dave burn it up throughout. This is the same hot band on Garrett’s previous album and tour. And they’re plenty warmed up, having finished the tour just as this album was beginning. Chris Dave’s drums are hot on Garrett’s tail. As a result, the opening Cole Porter ditty, “What is This Thing Called Love?,” feels like an improvised concerto for drums and sax with bass and piano as the orchestra. Virtuosity balances melody and form. (And it’s always fun when Moffett — of the Fort Worth Moffets — plays high pizzicato bass.)

Going into the c.d., most Garrett fans will depend on his trademark fire and technique to keep their spirits high. But Garrett is working as much on composition as on solo and combo sounds. Each tune brings different flavors to the table. The second number, “Kurita Sensei,” is an unabashed tribute to Wayne Shorter’s “Footprints.” The composition “XYZ” has a Keith Jarrett flavor that morphs easily into post-bop, reflecting the lithe genre-crossing of Garrett’s quartet. The fourth track, “Native Tongue,” is a smooth jazz anthem ready to be a car commercial, but the drums make sure that won’t happen. Pianist Vernell Brown gets to really shine on the fusion blues “Chief Blackwater.”

As for any of these tracks actually becoming standards, “Doc Tone’s Short Speech” — referencing the nickname and brief life of the pianist Kenny Kirkland, who passed away five years ago — has the best chance, with Garrett’s robust melody, delivered beautifully on soprano sax, standing out.


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