Thursday, August 20, 2009

Acolyte

Kenny Garrett
Billboard Club
Osaka, Japan


Jazz has by now become a catch-all term for a broad range of musical forms. They run the gamut from straight ahead trad to ambient exploration and everything in-between.

This was amply demonstrated last night as Kenny Garrett - acolyte of Duke Ellington, Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock - offered an intriguing sample of items to be found on the menu of contemporary jazz.

The opening song's deconstructed jazz-funk features a syncopated groove over which organist Johnny Mercier lays down some irresistibly funky lines. Garrett's abstract sax is processed with pitch effects in the style of Jon Hassell.

Garrett's tone combines the lusty depth of Lester Young with the spiritual yearning of his hero John Coltrane. Mercier's gospel-tinged organ playing is sublime. Drummer Justin Brown effortlessly mixes a post-bop vocabulary with rock and hip-hop while Kona Khasu on bass is solid and inventive.

Garrett opts to play keyboard at certain moments during the set, including a one-minute keyboard interlude - childlike and off-kilter - featuring himself on Rhodes and Mercier on Hammond B3.

Then come's a bewildering MOR instrumental which would be the perfect soundtrack if movie director David Lynch ever hosted a daytime chat show.

The set starts to depart from the hard-hitting post-bop which commenced the proceedings and at times comes dangerously close to easy-listening. The band is cruising and you get the feeling they can reel off this stuff in their sleep.

But events take a dramatic turn on the next two numbers when Justin Brown introduces some furious cross-rhythmic patterns into the mix. This guy is one of the most excitingly musical drummers I've heard since Billy Higgins and the mighty crescendo of noise he unleashes is astonishing.

The band then proceed to grandstand with the singalong Happy People. The purist in me cringes at Garrett's populist calls for the audience to rise to their feet, and considering his stunning post-bop CV it seems a tad cheesy.

But what do I know? The crowd are literally on their seats and there's no doubt everyone's having a roaring good time.

Fittingly the band end their set with a three-song tribute to Japan in the form of national favorites Akatonbo (Dragonfly), Tsubasa wo kudasai (Give Me Wings) and Kojiyou no Tsuki (Moon of the Old Castle). Each is restrained and beautiful.

For an encore Garrett and Mercier offer a glorious, soulful interpretation of the Japanese national song Kimigayo. The nationalist overtones of the tune are stripped away as Garrett transforms it into a tribute to his Japanese hosts. Notwithstanding my reservations about national anthems, it's a truly affecting rendition which sends a wave of emotion around the room.

2 comments:

Ken said...

Shiffi,

You need to keep writing. Tell us why you don't like Prince. I'm listening to some great covers by 'Eells'. Isn't 'Sign 'o' the times' the best LP of the last twenty years? No? Tell me why. If not, how can I get Giant Haystacks off my back?

Love, love and love,

Kendo Nagasaki

Shiffi Le Soy said...

Ken!

More coming soon but my internets down. Gotta call Apple tomorrow.

Coming soon: the music of the bulls!!

I'll think over your suggestions!