Album Remarks & Appraisals:
All About Jazz - Dan Bilawsky
Kenny Garrett is one of the most respected and frequently imitated saxophonists in the jazz world, but he might not have reached his full potential if not for those who guided him and showed him the way. While some musicians try to rewrite history when they make it big, turning their backs on the nurturing forces and influential individuals that kept them on the righteous path, Garrett doesn't fall into that category. He gives credit where credit is due, and Seeds From The Underground is the proof.
Garrett wrote ten musical "thank you" notes for this project, which honors his family, friends, mentors and musical influences. While the songs run the gamut from subdued to explosive, the most impressive material is the edgy, late '60s-influenced fare. Garrett's pianist - the underexposed Benito Gonzalez - puts a Latin-inflected, postmodern slant on the McCoy Tyner sound, and drummer Ronald Bruner is relentless, driving the music with punchy fills and on-top-of-the-beat cymbal work. This pairing proves to be potent, and both men can be seen as the combinatorial impetus behind Garrett's most aggressive and outspoken playing. Two prime examples come in the form of a hard hitting nod to saxophone maverick Jackie McLean ("J. Mac") and a waltzing tribute to drummer Roy Haynes ("Haynes Here"), but others are scattered throughout. ... read more...
Personnel: Kenny Garrett (soprano saxophone, alto saxophone, piano); Nedelka Prescod (vocals); Benito Gonzalez (piano); Ronald Bruner Jr. (drums); Rudy Bird (bata, percussion).
Audio Mixer: Todd Whitelock.
Liner Note Author: Gretchen Valade.
Recording information: Avatar Studios, New York, NY.
Photographer: Keith Major.
Arranger: Kenny Garrett.
On his sophomore Mack Avenue date, saxophonist Kenny Garrett has taken a back-to-basics approach to melodic composition with some compelling twists and turns. Seeds from the Underground is a set of ten new originals, performed by his standard group -- bassist Nat Reeves and pianist Benito Gonzalez -- with drummer Ronald Bruner (who also hails from Garrett's hometown of Detroit) and percussionist Rudy Bird. While the framework of nearly everything here stays firmly within the post-bop frame, Garrett' structural reliance on intricate, memorable melody is a keen lift-off point for group interplay. Opener "Boogety Boogety" features him head to head with Gonzalez, whose large chord voicings recall McCoy Tyner, though his brightly hued harmonics are his own. Bird's percussion drives the tune along the top, adding a Latin feel. "J Mac," inspired by Jackie McLean, is a sprint that draws on McLean's ability to cover bases from Charlie Parker to John Coltrane while keeping his own sense of lyricism inherent. Garrett's solo is knotty, unchained, and pyrotechnic. Bruner's kit just pops, double-timing the band. "Detroit," a ballad, hovers between wistful and noirish. It's evocative of an earlier era (especially with the sound of a turntable needle on a vinyl record's blank space), with one caveat: the lovely, understated, wordless vocals of Nedelka Prescod. The title track features Garrett on soprano, with some athletic rhythmic turns that Bruner and Bird (the latter on bata drums) shine inside. Here, too, one can hear the influence of Tyner, not only on Gonzalez, but in Garrett's harmonic extensions. "Welcome Earth Song" finds Prescod and a chorus of vocalists underscoring a gorgeous folk melody in a beautiful, sprightly 21st century post-bop presentation. "Ballad Jarrett" also features Garrett on soprano, it's spare, warm, lush, and haunting. Each piece here is resonant. On Seeds from the Underground, the boundary of Garrett's lyricism has been extended; his newfound rhythmic invention is singular among other post-bop technicians. But these qualities are part of something larger: that this music is welcoming and accessible, underscoring the notion that Garrett's new compositions have that mercurial something in them that approaches the mysterious nature of song itself . ~ Thom Jurek