• Keith Major
  • Kenny Garrett

Few jazz saxophonists active over the last few decades can match the skills and power of Kenny Garrett, whose talent was spotted early by the likes of Art Blakey, Freddie Hubbard, and, most famously, Miles Davis—all of whom hired him. Yet at the same time, few jazz artists of his ability have made so many spotty recordings, seemingly in search of a distinct sound. Garrett has made some good albums and his most recent effort, Seeds From the Underground (Mack Avenue), contains plenty of highlights, but it’s often felt as if he’s failed to reach his artistic potential.

As its title suggests, Garrett uses Seeds From the Underground to acknowledge some of his formative influences. The opening track, “Boogety Boogety,” which gets extra polyrhythmic heft from hand percussionist Rudy Bird complementing kit drummer Ronald Bruner, is named after the sound of a galloping horse—a memory the reedist has from watching Westerns with his father as a child. Other tracks pay more obvious dues to musical mentors. “Wiggins” is for his high school band director Bill Wiggins, “J. Mac” is an homage to alto sax great Jackie McLean, “Haynes Here” nods to the brilliant drummer Roy Haynes, and “Do Wo Mo” is a three-pronged tribute to Duke Ellington, Woody Shaw, and Thelonious Monk.