In the David Sanborn-Art Porter era, contemporary jazz was on; in 1999, the stuff is stale. The difference? Those cats had played all the music (swing, bop, straightahead) before they smooved-out; today's crew are one-trick ponies.
Perhaps that's why ex-Miles alto saxophonist Kenny Garrett's new joint Simply Said is the freshest contempo jazz record you're gonna hear all year. Aided and abetted by heavy friends (Mulgrew Miller, Pat Metheny, Jeff "Tain" Watts), Garrett resuscitates the genre's ballad-jazzy funk lite cipher with 11 tracks of oxygenated improvisation, melodic/rhythmic nuance and sheer joy of swing.
This new vibe is all about the way KG's alto flows and Maceo's over a pithy organ-ised "give the drummer some" groove ("G.T.D.S."), gooses and seduces a Jobimesque bossa nova ("Can I Just Hold Your Hand?") or flosses lush soprano sax behind a smoove, jazz-abstracted hip hop beat ("Back Where You Started"). Simply Said, all that contemporary jazz could/should be.