Concert Review: Kenny Garrett Quartet 1/13/08

kenny-garrettI needed to get out. It had been way too long since I had made time for a concert, and truthfully my decision to head to Seattle’s Jazz Alley on Tuesday to see Kenny Garrett was a last-minute decision. Quite often hosting a radio program that airs from midnight until 4 AM can throw a wrench in what can loosely be described as a social life (although I wouldn’t give it up for anything).  That being said, sneaking out to a show on a Tuesday night can typically be out of the question.

But I needed to get out, and I’m glad I did.

I want to say that its been eight or so years since I’ve seen Kenny Garrett live, and eight years ago I still found little appreciation for anyone that wasn’t either a trumpet player or Michael Brecker. As I’ve “matured”, at least musically, one of the things that has become important to me when hearling a modern day jazz musician perform live is that they offer a nice blend of creativity, talent, and something I will refer to as a hypnotic build of intensity.  That doesn’t mean that the music has to be “in-your-face”, or even intense in the general meaning of the word. I just mean that if you are going to tell me a story, have that story build to a point that it is so interesting that I lose track of what else is going on around me.

That is exactly what alto saxophonist Kenny Garrett brought Tuesday night to the Alley. While many jazz musicians feel that they can get away with playing six songs at fifteen minutes each in a ninety minute set, featuring themselves for 85 of those minutes, it often leads to a certain repetitiveness. It’s as if they end up telling the same story over and over, and leaves listeners squirming in their seat forty minutes into the show.

The story was quite contrary on Tuesday. Garrett did indeed fill his set with long songs, but he kept each song so interesting that the set didn’t even warrant the listeners a bathroom break. Each song, no matter how it started, would build…and build…and build…where you felt that if you were to get up at any time, you would certainly be missing the most interesting part of the story.

What made it more interesting was that Garrett’s solos would begin rather intense, making you wonder where he might go from there. But not only did he manage to build off of where he started, but it was as if he wasn’t even trying, which made it more impressive. Its no wonder why Garrett has to rank in the top three living alto players. His band (consisting of Kona Khasu (bass) Corey Henry (organ) and Justin Brown (drums)) not only had no issues keeping up with Garrett, but truly completed the concert. They were totally in sync, with Brown on drums especially impressive.

I needed to get out, and I’m glad I did. I need to do it more often, and I need to buy a new Kenny Garrett CD.

Watch a video below of Kenny Garrett live in Paris with Miles Davis: