Live Review: Kenny Garrett Quartet at Dazzle

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Kenny Garrett Quartet Sunday, July 27, 2008 (second set) Dazzle Better Than: Any show at Dazzle in the past few months.

While Kenny Garrett has explored various shades of jazz and other musical terrain on nearly every one of the fourteen albums he has released as a leader, most of the saxophonist’s Sunday night’s set focused on the funk.

To kick off the last of Garrett six sold-out sets over the weekend, drummer Justin Brown launched into a deep groove with the bassist laying down a thick electric bass line. Keyboardist Corey Henry let synthesizer chords spread out and resonate. All of this left a lot of space for Garrett to explore, and during his solo he came in unhurried, his alto soaked in a chorus-like effect. He gradually ramped up the intensity until he was jumping through quick interval runs, which earned him a few yells from the crowd. During a high point of his solo flight, Garrett quoted “Acknowledgement” from John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme.

The band kept the funk pumping through the second tune with Garrett and Henry doing some call-and-response between the organ and sax. Later in the tune, Garrett sat down at the Fender Rhodes electric piano while the bassist dug deep into his solo. Garrett also got the crowd clapping along and asked them, “Are you feeling it?”

The quartet then stepped away from the funk and made way for a rendition of “Native Tongue” from 2003’s Standard of Language followed by the contemplative “Intro to Africa,” a new song that will appear on Garrett’s forthcoming live album, Sketches of MD. The show-stopper by far was the extended funk jaunt of “Happy People,” which got the enthusiastic crowd on its feet. There were a few breaks in the tunes, almost as if Garrett was hinting at ending the tune, but kept coming back to the tune’ chorus, which sounds a bit similar to the intro of Stevie Wonder’s “Sir Duke.” Garrett and crew were clearly giving up the funk and the crowd was giving it right back.

–-Jon Solomon

Critic’s Notebook Personal Bias: While it was cool hearing Garrett get into the funk, I would’ve liked to hear at least one swinging bop tune. Random Detail: I’ve never seen anyone at Dazzle get a crowd as pumped as much as Garrett did last night during “Happy People.” By the Way: Garrett’s new live CD, Sketches of MD, will be released in September.

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