Mack Avenue Records released a stunning live album!
Kenny Garrett – Sketches Of MD – Live At The Iridium Featuring Pharaoh Sanders – Mack Avenue Records limited edition 180-gram stereo red vinyl + digital download, 56:36 ****1/2:
(Kenny Garrett – alto saxophone, bass clarinet, organ, synthesizers; Pharaoh Sanders – tenor saxophone, vocals; Nat Reeves – bass; Jamire Williams – drums; Benito Gonzalez – piano, Fender Rhodes, synthesizer)
Jazz artists thrive in live performances. While their studio catalogues provide insight into the various creative processes, live albums represent the soul and intellect of jazz musicianship. The ability to improvise and interact spontaneously with band members provides not just a showcase for talent, but a visceral and spiritual awakening. Detroit-based Mack Avenue Records has released a dynamic vinyl album by saxophonist Kenny Garrett. This local prodigy began his career with The Duke Ellington Orchestra, Miles Davis, Woody Shaw, Art Blakey and Freddie Hubbard. In 2008, Garrett recorded a live album with a quintet. Sketches Of MD, a Miles Davis-inspired night of music. Now that concert is available on 180-gram vinyl.
Sketches Of MD (recorded at New York’s Iridium venue) features Garrett on saxophone and clarinet, Pharaoh Sanders on tenor; Nat Reeves on bass, Jamie Williams on drums and Benito Gonzalez on piano and Fender Rhodes. The double vinyl is comprised of 5 extended jams that allows the quintet to explore and improvise. Side A’s lone composition “The Ring” is a post-bop celebration with deep feeling and exotic musical contexts. Both Garrett and Sanders take lead and improvise with urgency. The rhythm section (Gonzalez, Reeves and Williams) maintain a flowing, hypnotic groove as the soloists weave in and out of the jam. They are not reticent about pushing the tonal boundaries. There is occasional harmony. At 10;12, Gonzalez executes a deft piano solo (nearly three minutes) with swelling flourishes. The full ensemble reconnects for a vamp coda. “Intro To Africa” (Side B) is very bluesy. Garrett’s relaxed, soulful licks are neatly folded into the cohesive rhythmic structure. The alto playing alternates between smooth and jagged tones. Gonzalez’s piano runs including sustained trills are compelling, and he provides an airy feel to the arrangement. Garrett contributes a cool organ at the end. The title track is reminiscent of Miles Davis’ late 1960’s groove-based work. Garrett lays down some funky synthesizer riffs, while the bass and drums keep in lockstep. The saxophone instrumentation is somewhat dialed back and the “funk” vibe connects with the audience. The end of the song features spacey aesthetics and band introductions.
SIide C (“Wayne’s Thang”) is tightly cohesive. With Gonzalez percolating on Fender Rhodes, this song has the feel of soul/fusion jazz. Synthesizers recreate a wah-wah guitar. It is a funky translation with propulsive drumming and a driving bass line. There is a mid-song tempo halt that adds to the aesthetics. Saxophone and organ/electric piano come together in a nimble configuration. It is accessible and soulful with catchy modulations and intensity.. The funk train rolls on with Side D and “Happy People”. Saxophone returns to center stage with very jazzy intonation. The quintet interacts with palpable chemistry. Electric piano and synthesizer are framed by the relentless tempo and crisp musicianship. The momentum (as on all the cuts) remains intact. This is performance-driven with dramatic stops and starts and audience exhortation.
Sketches Of MD is a scintillating live album. The overall mix is excellent with studio-quality sound (very limited crowd noise). The gatefold packaging and eye-popping red vinyl will be well-received by vinyl aficionados and jazz fans.
Side A: The Ring
Side B: Intro To Africa; Sketches Of MD
Side C: Wayne’s Thang
Side D: Happy People.
More Information available at Mack Avenue Website: