Anyone interested in where the Panamanian saxophonist Carlos Garnett has been headed in the last few years could jump up to speed pretty quickly with his rendition of "Giant Steps" from his latest recording, Moon Shadow: Garnett likes his bop Latinized and his band unobtrusive, and he gets it here. The band slows "Giant Steps"'s famously rapid harmonic hurdles, substitutes Latin rhythm for hard-bop drive and adds bounce to the familiar melody via an augmented horn line. Then there's Garnett's tenor, coming straight out of mid-period Coltrane with impressive confidence and spark.
Garnett's take on "Giant Steps" encapsulates the rest of the album, which might also double as a mini-tribute to Coltrane, with tunes like "Softly As in a Morning Sunrise" and "My Favorite Things" next to originals bearing titles like "McCoy Next Block." Drummer Shingo Okudaira, percussionist Neil Clarke and pianist Carlton Holmes have been with Garnett for a few albums now, and they continue to provide deferential, if occasionally pedestrian support for the tenorman. In the past, Garnett has used a trumpet as a foil, but here, trumpeter Derick Gardner shares the rotating role with tenor saxophonist Al Flythe and trombonist Robert Trowers. Each gets his chance in the spotlight, with Gardner sounding particularly strong on "Delilah." But in the end, it's Garnett who makes the album. As each solo progresses, his tenor builds in intensity and urgency without sacrificing his wizened old player's economy of expression-an attractive mix that keeps drawing the ear back for more.