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By A.H. Goldstein
By the time Kenny Garrett was eighteen, his alto-sax chops were already good enough to earn him a spot in the Duke Ellington Orchestra, which was then led by Ellington's son, Mercer. Nearly a decade later, Garrett recorded with Miles Davis, Freddie Hubbard, Art Blakey and Donald Byrd, and performed with other jazz luminaries, including Herbie Hancock, McCoy Tyner and Pat Metheny. Most recently, he's worked with Pharoah Sanders, who also appeared on his fourteenth album, 2006's Beyond the Wall, as a leader. The two saxophonists join forces again on Garrett's forthcoming live album, Sketches of MD. We spoke with Garrett about that experience.
Westword: How was it playing with Pharoah again?
Kenny Garrett: Pharoah's my friend; it's always great to play with Pharoah. We get together and we have fun. One of the first tunes on the CD, "The Ring," is one of the tunes where I was hanging out in his house, and I was playing these overtones, and he said, "Hey, man, you should write a tune off that." We rehearsed the tune and just started playing it that week. Another tune on there, "Intro to Africa," is kind of the same thing. I didn't write the tune, but I kind of thought that Pharoah would actually appreciate that, and as soon as we started playing it, he knew exactly what I wanted to do. So I felt really excited about the fact that he understood that tune right away and what needed to happen.
Was Sketches of MD recorded in one night or over a few nights?
We did five nights, and we just started recording. We played other tunes and we tried a lot of stuff. The main thing was that I didn't do a Beyond the Wall, Part Two. We could have recorded that, and we did record some of that music, too, but I didn't want it to be that. I just wanted to document Pharoah and I playing together and see what would come out of that.
Why didn't you want to do Beyond the Wall, Part Two?
I already made a statement with that. And to do that live and try to release that, I felt it would be a different take on that. I just wanted to come up with some new songs, really like sketches, and see if we could create something on it. That's why it's called Sketches of MD. As we were learning the music, the artists were hearing it as we were exploring it. I always like to keep the music spontaneous, regardless of what it is.