Over the course of a stellar career that has spanned more than 30 years, saxophonist Kenny Garrett has become the preeminent alto saxophonist of his generation. From his first gig with the Duke Ellington Orchestra (led by Mercer Ellington) through his time spent with musicians such as Freddie Hubbard, Woody Shaw, Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers and Miles Davis, Garrett has always brought a vigorous yet melodic, and truly distinctive, alto saxophone sound to each musical situation. As a bandleader for the last two decades, he has also continually grown as a composer. With his latest recording (and second for Mack Avenue Records), Seeds from the Underground, Garrett has given notice that these qualities have not only become more impressive, but have provided him with the platform to expand his horizons and communicate his musical vision clearly. Seeds from the Underground is a powerful return to the straight-ahead, acoustic and propulsive quartet format that showcases Garrett’s extraordinary abilities.
For Garrett, Seeds from the Underground is a special recording. It once again consists of all original compositions, and is truly an homage to those who have inspired and influenced him, both personally and musically. “All of these songs are dedicated to someone,” says Garrett in a news release. “And the ‘seeds’ have been planted, directly or indirectly, by people who have been instrumental in my development.”
The album highlights Garrett’s overall approach to music: wide-ranging, receiving ideas from all musical sources and genres.
“I love the challenge of trying to stay open…about music and about life,” Garrett says. “If it’s music, I just try to check it out. Right now, I’m listening to some music from Martinique, and I’m lovin’ it. If I like it, maybe I can incorporate some of it into what I do.”
As for composing: “I don’t try to control what I write,” he says. “Music comes from ‘The Creator.’ It’s a gift that’s coming in, and I receive it. I write in all genres, and I’m writing all the time. It’s never about what it is…I just say thank you.”
Seeds from the Underground is the latest stop on what continues to be a fascinating musical journey for Kenny Garrett and his listeners. It’s a recording that is not only a significant personal statement from the saxophonist, but a musical declaration of his continued growth as a musician, and in particular, as a composer.
“Since my last recording, [his Mack Avenue debut, Sketches of MD/Live at the Iridium], I’ve had a lot of different experiences [including the aforementioned Five Peace Band, as well as The Freedom Band featuring Corea, McBride and Haynes],” Garrett says. “What I liked about putting this album together was the idea that my writing had grown and had become a little different, partially the result of Seeds from the Underground.”