It’s not easy to catch, live, the undisputed giants of the music up close and personal in a jazz club. When it happens it’s impossible to forget.
Herbie Hancock, Keith Jarrett, Sonny Rollins, Charles Lloyd, Wynton Marsalis, even, in your neighbourhood jazz club any time soon? Forget about it: it’s just not going to happen. But a kid can dream.
Well truth can be stranger and even more mind blowing than fiction sometimes, and last year one of the giants of the music alto saxophonist Kenny Garrett best known for his intuitive work with Miles Davis and for his own records made a welcome return to the UK playing a few jazz clubs rather than a concert hall.
And he returns to one of the clubs, the Pizza Express Jazz Club in London on Friday, followed by two shows on Saturday. Garrett is reunited with pianist Vernell Brown Jr., bassist Corcoran Holt, and drummer McClenty Hunter Jr. who played London last year slaying the crowd on one of the nights with the infectious ‘Happy People’ but adding percussionist Rudy Bird this week for even more heat.
On form in the studio, it’s just a year since the release of one of Garrett’s most memorably melodic albums to date, Seeds From The Underground, yet live there’s an additional rapid-fire spontaneity from the alto man, allied by Hunter’s Tony Williams-type attack that communicates immediately.
With his trademark skull cap, still youthful demeanour and playing style head-bobbing up and down, alto saxophone in the air, or down low to the ground, Garrett can deliver elegant runs of beautifully fluid improvising episodes with at times a Mali-meets-McCoy Tyner style bubbling up from pianist Brown on original material of the quality of ‘Boogety Boogety’.
Expect funk a plenty (in the Miles Davis 1980s sense), free-form Ornettian figures as well at these shows. On the Friday after Garrett leaves the stage there’s a free entry Whirlwind jam, so stick around if you’re stepping out, as the cream of the Soho scene are likely to show. MB
Kenny Garrett, top and Pizza Express Jazz Club above word on the street