(Mack Avenue Records MAC 1078. CD Review by Chris Parker)
The late Richard Cook (in his indispensable Jazz Encyclopedia, Penguin, 2005) discerns ‘a good flavour of Junior Walker-style blues licks’ in the saxophone style of US master Kenny Garrett (attributing it to his Detroit roots), but also notes that Garrett’s playing ‘can otherwise be as loquacious and many-noted in its delivery as that of any other post-bop saxophonist’, concluding that he is ‘a communicative player who likes listeners to be excited and persuaded by his music’.
Garrett is also keen to point listeners towards the music of his own formative influences (as he did so successfully on recent releases such as Songbook and Seeds from the Underground), and here he nods towards Chick Corea (‘Hey, Chick’, which ‘captures that Spain, Eastern Spanish, Moroccan vibe’ according to Garrett), Chucho Valdés (the infectiously percussive ‘Chucho’s Mamba’) and Sonny Rollins (‘J’ouvert’, described as ‘my “St Thomas”’ by Garrett).
Garrett’s core band comprises pianist Vernell Brown, bassist Corcoran Holt and drummer McClenty Hunter, but here they are spelled by the likes of pianist Benito Gonzalez and drummer Marcus Baylor, and augmented where needed by trumpeter Ravi Best and percussionist Rudy Bird, and the resultant album, which promiscuously mixes latin rhythms with whip-smart post-bop, is a typical Garrett production: irresistibly peppy and exuberant, yet graceful, even elegant in its assured adherence to the core jazz values of swing and improvisatory imagination.
As Cook comments, Garrett ‘has gradually worked away from existential solos and towards a more songful, even carefree manner’ (which may explain the inclusion of the slightly saccharine Bacharach tune ‘I Say a Little Prayer’ in the otherwise mostly hard-driving set), and Pushing the World Away is consequently immediately accessible, breezily persuasive but intense, and a worthy successor to its double Grammy-nominated predecessor.
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