Recording information: Sear Sound, New York, NY.
Photographers: Dena Katz; Jimmy Katz.
On Kenny Garrett's fourth Mack Avenue release, 2016's Do Your Dance!, the Detroit-born saxophonist dives headlong into a set of original songs that exploit dance rhythms in subtle, unexpected ways. Conceptually speaking, while there are dance beats from swing, funk, Latin, and more throughout Do Your Dance!, the idea of doing your dance could also simply refer to the idea of doing your own thing and expressing yourself in your own unique way. That seems to be the deeper notion running through much of Garrett's music, which is often explosive, harmonically challenging, and highly engaging here. Joining Garrett are several collaborators from his other Mack Avenue releases, including pianist Vernell Brown, Jr., bassist Corcoran Holt, drummers Ronald Bruner, Jr. and McClenty Hunter, and percussionist Rudy Bird. Together, they have a lively, organic ensemble sound that lends itself to group interplay even during solos. Everybody sounds alert and focused with all ears on Garrett. Bookended by two fiery post-bop swingers in "Philly" and "Chasing the Wind," both of which bring to mind mid-'60s John Coltrane, Do Your Dance! finds Garrett in an eclectic mood. His roiling "Backyard Groove" picks up on the angular circularity of Miles Davis' "Freedom Jazz Dance," while the aptly titled "Bossa" is a fluid, minor-key-tinged exploration the Brazilian sound. Elsewhere, Garrett displays his knack for combining disparate sounds, as on the classically inflected "Wheatgrass Shot (Straight to the Head)" featuring rapper Donald "Mista Enz" Brown, Jr., which sounds delightfully like the Roots making an ECM album. Also unexpected are the ruminative "Waltz (3 Sisters)" and the exotic "Persian Steps," which features Garrett on sax, flute, and the droney, traditional Indian Shruti Box. More expected, but no less impressive, is the buoyant "Calypso Chant," in which Garrett summons the titanic energy and island-inspired hard bop of Sonny Rollins. Ultimately, with Do Your Dance! Garrett has crafted an album that will get your blood flowing to your brain and your feet. ~ Matt Collar