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Kenny Garrett: Pushing the World Away

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The paradox invoked by the title of saxophonist Kenny Garrett’s latest is that of a man seeking to escape the chaos of daily life in order to live in the moment, “pushing the world away” so he may see it, immerse himself in it and celebrate it as fully as possible.

“J’ouvert (Homage to Sonny Rollins)” is Garrett’s tribute to “St. Thomas,” but even as he skips lightly through the complex Latin rhythmic textures laid down by drummer Marcus Baylor and percussionist Rudy Bird, the revelry is tempered by a sense of reflection-melodic descents, smooth-edged legato-befitting a tribute to a venerated elder. The ballad “Brother Brown,” which salutes Garrett’s co-producer Donald Brown, gives us a rare glimpse of Garrett’s piano style, both deeply melodic and eloquently sparse. The accompanying string trio adds depth and resonance rather than bathos.

Garrett’s take on Burt Bacharach’s “I Say a Little Prayer” is affectionate but again tinged with melancholy, as if to acknowledge both the seductive lure of romantic idealism and its eventual cost. The title track, in contrast, seethes with intensity-the “pushing” here is more than metaphoric. Pianist Vernell Brown and Garrett’s duet vocal chant seems both a muttering of discontent and a nascent Buddhist mantra; Garrett’s soprano solo negotiates through daunting minor-key landscapes with ebullient fearlessness.

But there’s also plenty of pure merriment on hand. “Chucho’s Mambo” is dancefloor-friendly, even as Garrett’s solo segues between linearity and abstraction. Brown’s piano work on “Alpha Man” bursts with an exuberant spirit of exploration. “Rotation” features Garrett with the session’s two pianists-Brown and Benito Gonzalez-and all three drummers-Marcus Baylor, McClenty Hunter and Mark Whitfield Jr.- in round-robin interplay that flaunts a loose, spontaneous jam-session feel.

Originally Published