Kenny Garrett : Sounds from the Ancestors Review
By Darnell Jackson
Kenny Garrett is a jazz composer, saxophonist, and bandleader that is a well-known artist that needs no introduction. Garrett’s album Sounds from the Ancestors is a new set of compositions with a list of guest musicians that explores music from African roots in various groove-based senses and settings. Guests include drummer Lenny White, pianist and organist Johnny Mercier, trumpeter Maurice Brown, conguero Pedrito Martinez, batá percussionist Dreiser Durruthy and singers Dwight Trible, Jean Baylor, Linny Smith, Chris Ashley Anthony, and Sheherazade Holman.
“It’s Time to Come Home” builds a groove that is sublime, uncomplicated, and is illuminated by a memorable melody. The music is celebratory, and the ensemble has a communal warmth. However, I wanted more of Garrett digging into extended solos and tangling with the rest of the ensemble. Garrett’s playing is always stylish, tapered into the groove, but he never seems to kick up the mood to his usual triumphant climaxes on this selection. Instead, the music imbues an ardent sincerity that never grows past anything more than safe, not to mention electrifying.
On “For Art’s Sake,” Garrett lets his gifted ensemble develop a groove-based on modern jazz meets soul and funk. The melody is charming in its relationship to the harmony and groove. The recording captures the refined playing of Garrett’s roaming fluidity over the groove, but it still seems flirted with caution, and the ensemble seems to settle in on a groove but does not push each other to climb higher in intensity.
Sounds from the Ancestors seamlessly integrates many sounds of Africa into a colorful riff-based groove-laden collection of songs. The jazz sounds honest and a natural response to Garrett’s current state of experiences. There is something ecstatic in his attempts at simple repetitive melodies, letting the groove absorb into a long-lasting statement. However, Sounds From the Ancestors, Garrett’s fifth album with Mack Avenue, never takes off or goes to places that excite or stun. On this one, Garrett keeps it safe and straightforward. Is that good? Well, that is for you to decide.
Artist: Kenny Garrett
Label: Mack Avenue
Release Date: August 27, 2021