Sketches of MD — Live at the Iridium, featuring Pharoah Sanders (Mack Avenue)
While the MD of the title of Kenny Garrett's Mack Avenue debut disc likely refers to former boss Miles Davis, Sketches sounds more like a tribute to McCoy Tyner and early 1960s John Coltrane... not that there's anything wrong with that. The opener, "The Ring," evokes those moody, slow-building compositions on Jackie McLean's wonderful mid-'60s Blue Note albums like On the Nile. "The Ring" features Garrett and guest tenor saxophonist Pharoah Sanders emoting and testifying. Sanders' energized, firebrand style juxtaposes nicely with Garrett's sleek, steely ice. "Intro to Africa" is similar but far more blues-oriented. Garrett sounds a bit like Cannonball Adderley here during his "out"-er moments, while Benito Gonzalez gets in touch with his inner Tyner and offers cascading, balm-like piano playing. The title track ushers in some oblique Weather Report-style funk 'n' shimmer, and the closer, "Happy People," is a slightly generic soul-jazz strut with cheesy keys and wah-wah effects sounding like leftovers from the soundtracks to Sanford & Son and The Rockford Files, redeemed somewhat by Garrett's fiery alto. Sketches is edgy and has plenty of fine moments. All in all, le jazz est hot.