I just wanna to write and up-date of was going on w/ me right now, yes is been so long since i say hello.
Well i first, i have some huge projects coming up really soon, big changes in my musical life as well as personal life, i feel really exited and i can't wait to share this great projects with all of you, also as i keep touring the world with the great Kenny Garrett and playing the music of our brand new album "Seed's from the Underground" this album is getting some great reviews and great critics it was on one of the top places on the Billboard for long time, Well also I'm currently working on my new recording project there is some great surprise's coming on this one, i also got a new manager witch i'll be working with during my new projects "i can't wait to share it" Mean wile this summer-fall will be a bit busy for me, spent most of my days between touring,practicing,writing,exercising. also trying to spent more time with Elise and in Venezuela with my father, and family during the year, so there you have it! this is me for now i'll promise to keep you posted with all this projects.
Also i want to Thanks to all of you friends and fans from all over the world specially from the Ukraine (Kiev, Lviv) Russia (Moscow) China (Beijing,Fujian) UK,France, Japan, Italy, US (Washington DC)(Chicago)(Detroit)(California)(New York City) (Venezuela) (Mexico) and all of you who fallow my music Thank you! THANK YOU so much, I love you all !!! see you soon. Benito.
03.26.12Review from B&S Blues and Soul from London UK, "Seeds from the Underground"
As I type this review, Kenny Garrett is appearing in London at the Pizza Express Jazz Club (23rd to 25th March.) Worst thing about that is; I am not going to be there! A big draw at the box office no doubt, and you can bet your sweet bippy he will more than deliver live.
No disappointment on the new CD either. The playing is wonderful. The passion is there. The songs are well crafted, and the ensemble of guys he has with him is perfect. But for me, the star of the whole thing is not actually sax star Garrett. But his pianist, Venezuelan Benito Gonzalez. That is not to demean Garrett’s contribution in any way. No Sir. He is blindingly good here. With his track record, we all know what he is capable of.
But Gonzalez is a new name to me, and I am sure he is to most reading this review. Not for long. A sensational player in the McCoy Tyner and Keith Jarrett mould. But with his own unique style. He plays out of his skin on the whole thing, and really adds huge value to the project. Bravo Benito and bravo Kenny, for recognising his talents and having him on this album.
Garrett’s career has spanned more than three decades, in which time he has played with the Duke Ellington Orchestra, led by Mercer Ellington. He has played with Freddie Hubbard, Woody Shaw, Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers, Miles Davis and many more mega names. He has close to 20 albums in his own right and appears on many others as a guest. For the last few years he has been part of Five Peace Band, with John Mclaughlin, Chick Corea, Christian McBride and drummers Vinnie Colaiuta and Brian Blade.
“Seeds from The Underground” is a welcome return to straight-ahead, acoustic and propulsive quartet format. All 10 tracks are his original compositions, and homage to those people - musically and personally - who have inspired and influenced him. Beautifully produced by Garrett and his good friend Donald Brown, who he met when they were both part of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers.
It is a skilful and accomplished mission to emphasise melody, in which they succeed from the off. I was humming the tune to track one, “Boogety Boogety,” an hour after first hearing it. Gonzalez turns in (his first of many), a fine, fine, fine solo. I write down McCoy Tyner's name in my notes, before reading that Garrett recognised Gonzalez’ similarity to McCoy’s sublime talents and wanted that approach to this CD. Garrett remarking that Tyner “is my man.” Mine too.
On J.Mac, (a tribute to Jackie McLean) Garrett blows his lungs out. Track three “Wiggins,” (his tribute to high school band director Bill Wiggins) digs deep for the groove. “Haynes Here” nods to Roy Haynes. They use voices all over this track, (no lyric, just voices,) and after five minutes or so it does grate a bit, a tad too high in the mix. Better still, cut the track at about 4.30, instead of the 7.27 it is now. Those voices return on the next track, “Detroit,” which was a track I was not that keen on. The title track goes for a solid hook, with a few twists and turns in the arrangement. Garrett sure is a funky dude on that ol’ sax, and I think of Pharoe Sanders, Wilton Felder and Wayne Shorter on and off throughout this album.
Garrett has soulful chops for sure.
He turns his attention to conjuring up African moods on “Welcome Earth Song” where the use of those voices does work well, and the hot African sun beats down again on the the closer “Laviso, I Bon?”, which features a gorgeous piano solo.
Garrett is joined by bassist Nat Reeves, drummer Ronald Bruner, percussionist Rudy Bird and of course, my man of the match, Benito Gonzalez. Remember that name. A future star."Seeds From The Underground" by Kenny Garrett is on Mack Avenue Records. Cat: MAC1063
WORDS SIMON REDLEY
On Friday march 2, 2012 at 6:30am mi mother Maria Concepcion Valbuena passed away here in venezuela, she was my best friend really great mother and strong women the sadness is overwhelming, thanks for all the messages and phone calls we really apressiated... BG.
01.30.122011 LIFE ON THE ROAD...
Wow! Another year has come and gone. 2011 has come to an end and 2012 is running quickly too . 2011 was a great year for pianist Benito Gonzalez... . Sure, i had some ups and downs but managed to finish strong with a few of the strongest months i’ve ever had in terms of touring.
Ok to resume 2011, started w/ a great tour w/ Steve Turre and Claudio Roditi i had a great time i always love to play w/ Steve and Claudio is a Master, one of the concerts was in Detroit @Jazz Caffe, it was fun! then i went to the west coast w/ the Kenny Garrett Quartet, LA, Oakland, Seattle! Yoshi's was great that venue its always great for us. then i did a recording w/ one of my fav tenor saxophone players of all the time Teodross Avery look out for this album it should be out some time this year its a good one, in March i went to Austin Texas for a concert w/ Stan Killian a great musician and friend we had fun playing at SXSW, in April i play for 3 nights @Regatta Bar in Boston w/ Kenny Garrett, i love the sound of that room it was really fun, then early May had some great concerts w/ Azar Lawrence Quintet in New York @Jazz Standard then we went to Blues Alley in Washington DC, it was also really great to share the stage in DC w The Great Nicholas Payton on trumpet, BAM!
Also in May i went to Mexico to play in Festival musical de Guadalajara, it was nice, people there was really cool and receptive w us, in June i play a great concert in NYC w/ one of my fav drummers Babatunde Lea @Stone what a night wow!!! Then here we go! went out for our summer touring w/ The Kenny Garrett Quartet, for the ones i remember we went to Kiev, Ukraine, Spain (one of our best concert was @Jambore Jazz Club in Barcelona it was really spiritual!
Also in the beginning of July we had a nice week @Dizzy's in NYC the band sounds sooo killin! Nat Reeves on bass was swinging so hard also also Ronald Brunner was killin it, then we went in to the Studio the following week to do Kenny's new album "Seeds from the Underground" it came out nice there is a lots of great music in there, this album it should be out in the middle of march. then in september i had a nice concert in Savannah Georgia, w/ the Stan Killian Quartet we had a blast here jaja... then i went back to Washington DC in October to play @ Bohemian Caverns w/ my Band it so great to play @Bohemian after almost 2 years the band was on fire, Lee Person drums, Ammen Saleem bass, Tim Green on alto and soprano sax, we're gonna do it again soon for sure!
Then right after DC went back to China ( Shanghai ) w the Kenny Garrett Quartet, we had a great time there nice hanging and see some familiar faces in shanghai from musicians who are from the states, in November we went to Japan to play for a week @ Cotton Club, the piano at that club was great and really nice crow too, i love Japan! and in December we went to Martinique to play @ Martinique jazz fest, it was nice to hang there w/ Roy Hargrove who also was there performing w/ his band and had one of my fav piano players w/ him mr George Cables.
Then we went to saint Denis ,Reunion Island for a concert wow...what a beautiful place it was really far but it was worth the travels to play and hang w/ the beautiful people from there, the finish my year playing and doing Azar Lawrence's new record "The Seeker" Live @Jazz Standard feat: Jeff "Tain" Watts on drums, Nicholas Payton trumpet, Essiet Okon Essiet bass and yours truly on piano wow... it was magic! we had a great run in there, this album it should come out in the summer 2012.... then went home vacation to Venezuela of course i had to play a concert and it was great! also share the stage w/ some great venezuelan musicians Andres Briceño drums and Gustavo Caruci bass... So there it is, till the next one... God Bless! BG
03.05.11Jazztimes the expanded critics poll
I'm truly honored to have received the #3 on The best new Artist of the year on Jazztimes Magazine critics' poll (march issue) next to the two greats Esperanza Spalding and Gerald Clayton, Thank you very much! this is a compromise to keep expanding... GOD bless you all!
02.14.11D.C.'s best jazz albums of 2010
My Album "Circles" was one of the best jazz albums of 2010 in Washington DC, Detroit and New York City... I feel so blessed right now!!
Thanx to you all great fans and to everyone evolve on this project... Benito.
11.12.10Benito Gonzalez Shakes Up The Jazz Standard
Benito Gonzales Shakes Up The Jazz Standard
Benito Gonzalez says that putting together his second album wasn’t really a challenge. He didn’t really have to think about where he wanted to go with it. Instead, he was just out to have a fun time with the talented group of musicians he gathered to record with him. It was this same approach he took to the Jazz Standard venue on Tuesday night to celebrate his new release Circles, and to test how well the albums sound would gel.
The mostly packed night drew out a mixed crowd of both young and old people, a refreshing sight and a sign of the appeal the pianist Benito has in the Jazz world already. His band reflected this also, as he surrounded himself with vets of different eras like alto saxophonist Azar Lawrence, tenor saxophonist Myron Waldon, bassist Nat Reeves and drummer Jeff ‘Tain’ Watts. Since everyone except for Nat played on the album, there was great potential for telepathic playing to emerge between the players.
The influence of McCoy Tyner on the young star, as well as the classic John Coltrane quartet Tyner played in, was not something Benito was afraid to hide and explored both of these influences during the night. Using the Tyner composition “Blues On The Corner,” Benito’s group achieved a near similar effect of working in synchronization to explore the territory forged several decades ago. Here Azar took advantage of his years playing with Tyner to shift between rapid sheet attacks that reached into the upper register of his sax to guiding the group into the more catchy verse territory.
When the quintet would change the pace with challenging numbers such “Taurus,” written by Benito, it showed how the group could deliver quick but potent solos when under the time gun. But it was Jeff who stole the show with a moment where he used his loud, crackling playing style to finish out the song and ended it on an abrupt note. This unexpected turn played out quite well in the skilled drummer’s hands and was rewarding with its explosive execution.
Perhaps the song that found the quintet at its most creative was another original number by Benito, “Lets Talk About You and Me.” This ballad was the most unique in song structure and usage of his band. It reflects the composer’s feeling about his life as a traveler and his come and go friendships. Playing off of a Latin rhythm, the song at one point found Benito engaged in a passionate solo that utilized his two saxophonists playing a couple of long notes per bar to a unique harmonic effect. It was this kind of inventiveness that drew the loudest cheers of the night and found the band working together at its best.
The mostly post-bop outing was certainly an enjoyable one for both the audience and the musicians that night. The time spent sinking into both classic and new numbers grounded in the tradition of 60s jazz found common but difficult ground for every member to stretch out their talent on. It turned out to be a winning detour for Benito as he gained new fans who eagerly waited for him after his set was over.
Words by Putnam Doug
All content © 2010 by Revivalist Music
09.20.10PIANIST BENITO GONZÁLEZ RELEASES HIS SOPHMORE ALBUM, CIRCLES, ON FURTHERMORE RECORDINGS
PIANIST BENITO GONZÁLEZ RELEASES HIS SOPHMORE
ALBUM, CIRCLES, ON FURTHERMORE RECORDINGS
CD Release Performance at Jazz Standard on November 2
""Life is a Circle that is Full Of many Circles of Our Existence.
Everything we do and learn make up who we are.
Every circle has a purpose and every purpose tells the story of our life.
Because in everything there is one huge fact and truth.
Where there is a beginning, there is an end, and another beginning."
- Benito González, Circles Liner Notes
Circles, the new recording by Venezuelan pianist Benito González, his second as a leader, speaks of an artist taking stock -- as he moves forward. "This album for me marks a cycle that ends and another that begins," says González. "All my experiences are portrayed in this album." And what a remarkable journey it's been.
"Circles reflects everything I had been living in this cycle in my life." If the recording has a classic, 1960s sound, "it wasn't premeditated, but a reflection of what I was hearing. Also, I'm a fan of that period. It was a very rich time in jazz and I think it's being overlooked," he says. "And the musicians [on the record] all immediately knew what to do. There was great chemistry in the studio." The album features old friends Christian McBride and Ron Blake alongside Azar Lawrence on tenor sax, Myron Walden, on alto and soprano sax and Jeff "Tain" Watts, drums.
Each of the nine tracks has a definite meaning and purpose, says González, be it a tribute to Elvin Jones ("Elvin's Sight"), Kenny Kirkland ("Faces"), a piece dedicated to his daughter who will be seven in November ("Elise"), a meditation on the continuous moving, resettling, and making and losing friends in his life ("Let's talk about you and me") or "Blues on The Corner," a nod to McCoy Tyner, one of his most obvious influences. "People always pick up on McCoy's influence in my playing, but I actually started out with Herbie, and Chick and Bud Powell. It just turns out I've been involved in music situations that call for that sound, especially Kenny Garrett and Azar Lawrence, who I first heard on my favorite McCoy [Tyner] album Enlightenment. People talk about McCoy Africanizing the piano, making it a percussion instrument, and I feel very comfortable playing in that style. It feels very natural."
González was born in 1975 in Maracaibo, the second-largest city in Venezuela, to a family of amateur musicians. "Everybody played an instrument, but until I showed up nobody had committed to the madness of becoming a professional," he says with a laugh. He started by playing percussion with uncles and cousins in a traditional Venezuelan band. At 10, his godfather taught him the rudiments of music and how to play the organ to accompany the choir at services in the local church. Four years later, the congregation bought a piano and Benito moved on to that instrument. "I never took lessons," he says. "I'm self-taught."
"The traditional Venezuelan music we played is called gaita," he explains. "And, as you can imagine, originally it didn't have any technology. But by the time I learned it, that music featured piano and keyboards and some very contemporary chords. What I didn't know then is that I was learning jazz harmonies. So when I heard Chick Corea on the radio -- I believe with 'Return to Forever' -- I remember asking my mom 'What's that?'. And I told her I wanted to play that music because I loved what the pianist was doing. My mom turned to me and said 'Are you crazy? That's jazz. You have to be very good to play that music.' But as I started to hear more of Chick and Herbie Hancock, I realized that they played some of the chords I played, it's just that I didn't know what they were called, and that piqued my curiosity."
At 16 González moved to Caracas, Venezuela's capital, by himself, to pursue his dream. "A friend found me a place to stay. I didn't have anybody there, but my dad traveled there often for work so that helped," he says. "And I started by borrowing jazz harmony and piano books and going out and checking out pianists." He started to work in pop bands and as an accompanist of singers, most notably Frank Quintero and Maria Rivas. A big break came when he was called to fill in at Juan Sebastian Bar, a historic club and the hub of the jazz scene in Caracas. A one-night stand became a regular Monday through Saturday gig as a leader of the house trio. "That's where I truly developed my playing, and that's where I heard all the great players who came to town. It was a great experience," González says.
While at the club he met producer Nicolas Robertson who was in town working on an album with Okyerema Asante, a Ghanaian master percussionist who played with Hugh Masekela and Paul Simon among others. The encounter led to González recording in Asante's album and being invited to move to Washington, D.C. He did in 2000 and shortly after met saxophonist Rene McLean and joined his group. "I´ve been very lucky to work with people like Rene McLean. He gave me a lot of advice not only as a musician but personally," says González. He stayed with Rene for two years, before auditioning for Rene's father, saxophonist Jackie McLean, who was looking for a pianist.
"I went to Hartford [CT] to The Artist Collective where Jackie had his thing, and I remember his reaction when he auditioned me and heard me play. He just said 'Welcome to the gang'." He would remain with McLean until 2004. But along with his work as a sideman, González kept growing fast as a leader and composer.
In 2005, he released Starting Point, his first album as a leader, featuring Rene McLean, Ron Blake, Christian McBride, Antonio Sánchez and Pernell Saturnino. All but one of the tracks are originals by González. Also that year, and without his knowledge, González was entered in the Great American Jazz Piano Competition, at the Jacksonville Jazz Festival. "My then-wife had tried to get me interested the year before, but I was too busy, and she tried again in 2005, but I had the new record out, so I thought it was too much," he recalls. "But she send an application with a copy of the album anyway, and a few weeks later they wrote back saying I was one of the finalists - so now I had to go." He played and won. "There were some brilliant pianists competing. I'm so proud of that win," he says.
In 2006, saxophonist and bandleader Kenny Garrett called. They had met in 2003, while González was in New York for a week long engagement with McLean. Nothing seemed to come off it then but, three years later "he was putting together a new group and was looking for a pianist. We got together and played, but also talked about concepts for long periods of time at his house. I knew it was the right situation for me -- and we have been working together since. Kenny has been a big mentor for me" says González.
González is also proud of having worked with artists such as Azar Lawrence, Curtis Fuller, Pharaoh Sanders, Bobby Hutcherson, Ignacio Berroa, Roy Hargrove, Steve Turre, Hamiet Bluiett, and Nicholas Payton. "I´ve talked a lot with Rene and Kenny about the jazz tradition," he says. " Unfortunately there not that many old masters to pass on the tradition to young players, so what you get is musicians who can play it all technically, but the music just doesn´t sound right. I've been very lucky. Jackie taught me a lot, for example. He would sit at the piano and tell me 'Try to play this, this way.' And I thought I was doing it right, but when I heard Jackie playing it, I understood how it had to be done. And he knew the history of jazz but was open minded. He would tell me to listen to Bud Powell - but also Mulgrew Miller and Kenny Kirkland. And all that has nurtured me."
As for the next cycle, he remains open but focused on the work at hand. "In my first record I had a clear Venezuelan influence, and perhaps someday I will go back to it," he says. "But this record reflects where I am today. Circles is the summation of my work to date."
Listen to an exclusive streaming track
Benito Gonzalez Quintet at Jazz Standard
Tuesday, November 2
Sets at 7:30pm & 9:30pm
Benito Gonzalez - Piano
Myron Walden - Alto Saxophone
Azar Lawrence - Tenor Saxophone
Essiet Okon Essiet - Bass
Jeff "Tain" Watts - Drums
116 E. 27th Street
New York, NY 10023
Phone - (212) 576-2232
Website - http://www.jazzstandard.net/
Benito Gonzalez · Circles
Furthermore Recordings · Release Date: October 12
For additional information on Furthermore Recordings,
please visit: http://furthermorerecordings.com/
For press information and to request a copy
of Circles for review, please contact:
DL MEDIA · 610-667-0501
Don Lucoff · firstname.lastname@example.org
11.05.09Benito Gonzalez new CD - It's done.
After spending a whole day @ systems two studios in NYC my new recording it's done!
i want to thanks Christian Mcbride, Jeff Tain Watts, Myron Walden, Ron Blake, Azar Lawrence. the music sounds Amazing this guy's where unbelievable , We did had a great team work... great times. The album will be out in August 2010.
thanks for your support BG.
hey hey, i will be recording my next album the first week of november 09 in NYC.
and i will have GREAT GREAT musicians, the music its great, i'm so happy to share this album w/ you all, it will be release August 2010.
09.02.08Kenny Garrett's New Album 'Sketches of MD' feat: Benito Gonzalez piano, Jamire Williams Drums, Nat Revees Bass, And special Guest Pharoah Sanders.
Kenny Garrett (sax); Pharoah Sanders (sax); Nat Reeves (bass); Benito Gonzalez (Piano,keyboards); Jamire Williams (drums).
Sketches of MD, is the Mack Avenue debut for multiple Grammy® nominee Kenny Garrett. It’s also the first live recording of the Kenny Garrett/Pharoah Sanders pairing, and Garrett’s first recorded set at New York City’s famed Iridium Jazz Club. In addition to Sanders, Garrett is backed by Nat Reeves on bass, Benito Gonzalez on Piano/Keyboards and Jamire Williams on drums.
SKETCHES OF MD: LIVEATTHE IRIDIUM
–Mack Avenue Records MAC1042. 19900 Harper,
Harper Woods, MI 48225. Web: www.kennygar-
rett.com. The Ring; Intro to Africa; Sketches of MD;
Wayne’s Thang; Happy People
PERSONNEL: Kenny Garrett, alto saxophone;
Pharoah Sanders, tenor saxophone; Nat Reeves, bass;
Benito Gonzalez, keyboards; Jamire Williams, drums
By Curtis Davenport
Though he is not yet 50, Kenny Garrett has been
a major player on the jazz scene forabout a quarter
century. He recorded his first date as a leader in 1984
and since then, he has compiled as impressive list of
credits as any jazz musician of his generation. He has
been a Jazz Messenger, the catalyst in Miles Davis’
last group, the lone sax player on the memorable
Freddie Hubbard/Woody Shaw sessions, a member
of the revived Blue Note records showcase group Out
of the Blue (OTB) and recorded over a dozen sessions
as a leader or co-leader, the latest of which is a live
recording that showcases his latest group, that in-
cludes the legendary Pharoah Sanders; recorded live
at NYC’s Iridium Jazz Club. The disc, called Sketches
of MD: Live at the Iridium, is like a lot of Mr. Gar-
rett’s work through the years; energetic, funky and
The seeds for this disc grew out of Garrett’s desire
to document the band that he took on the road in sup-
port of his last disc, 2006’s Beyond the Wall. As he be-
gan to write new songs and reach back for some older
ones, the concept slowly evolved into a sort of Miles
tribute. However it is not in homage to Davis’ com-
positions or those associated with him, but instead
Sketches of MD “reflect(s) the artistry of key sidemen
from [Davis’] many groups”. So what we are listening
to is this by now drum-tight group spurred on by a
supportive audience, giving us their broad takes on the
styles of Coltrane, Shorter, Cannonball and Garrett
himself, with selections all penned by Mr. Garrett.
The disc starts with “The Ring”, a new composi-
tion that owes a little of its melody line to Mingus’
“Goodbye Porkpie Hat” and its insistent rhythm to
Coltrane and “A Love Supreme”. The rhythm sec-
tion of pianist Benito Gonzalez, drummer Jamire
Williams, both newcomers and bassist Nat Reeves
(who has recorded and played with Garrett, on and
off through the years, stretching back to Garrett’s de-
but album), are marvelous on this track, as they are
throughout the disc. I sense that they were pushing
the two reedmen; Gonzalez comping like McCoy be-
hind Trane and Williams channeling the spirit of El-
vin, as he drops bomb after bomb. Garrett responds
with some of the fieriest playing I’ve heard from him
in some time, stretching the boundaries of the song
structure. Then comes Pharoah, whose mere presence
strengthens the Trane connection, but Mr. Sanders
makes it clear that he is not just along for the ride,
soloing powerfully; punctuating his lines with some
of his trademark trills and squalls. I read an article
recently in which Sanders was lamenting his lack of
work over the last few years, “I would love to work,
but no one calls me...” he said. I’m glad Garrett did
because Sanders’ presence makes this date really come
alive (other cats should pick up their phones as well
at 68, Pharoah still sounds great). The opening track
is further enhanced by a rich, rolling piano solo from
Mr. Gonzalez, a versatile young player who perme-
ates his straight-ahead playing with World rhythms.
The next track is “Intro to Africa”, a piece infused
with the rhythms and mournful sounds of old-time
black gospel music. Gonzalez really set the mood
with his piano and organ fills. Garrett then takes
over using effects on his alto that make him some-
times sound like a sweat drenched preacher in mid-
sermon. “Intro to Africa” is said to be the first part of
a suite that Garrett plans to record in its entirety in
the near future. I look forward to hearing the rest of
it. “Wayne’s Thang”, a tribute to another saxophon-
ist with Miles connections, Wayne Shorter, is not a
new tune. Garrett previously recorded it on his Triol-
ogy album in 1995. While that trio version went for
the gumbo, this one goes for the funk with Reeves
and Williams dropping an irresistible rump-shaking
groove and Gonzalez giving us some wah-wah key-
board and organ straight out of those classic CTI
sessions of the seventies. Garrett and Sanders add
to the jam-session feel with their in the pocket solo
riffs. The disc closes with another Garrett “classic”,
the title cut from his Happy People disc of a few years
ago. The Miles connection here is a sound that comes
straight out of the latter part Cannonball Adderley’s
soul-groove period. Garrett even kicks the tune off
doing a very un-Milesian thing; imploring the crowd
to “make some noise up in here” and adding a couple
of hip-hoppish ‘unh-unh’s, before he breaks into the
infectious melody. And it’s clear from the audience’s
spontaneous scatting of the refrain, that they truly
were happy people by the end of this night. Kenny
Garrett had given them what they wanted, without
losing his artistic integrity.
Sketches of MD: Live at the Iridium has the spon-
taneous feel that one expects from a live jazz album,
with the bonus that the musicians and the audience
all seem to be enjoying themselves. Though these are
compositions that they’ve played before, the band is
clearly trying out something new with their approach
to each tune which for me, made things far more inter-
esting. The most important thing was not the perfect
note, but exploring the groove and it was a fun trip.
07.22.08John Fordham The Guardian July 13 2006
The Guardian, Thursday July 13 2006
Jazz-improv purists often wince if anybody refers to a performance as an "act". The notion suggests something premeditated, even calculating. Yet Kenny Garrett, the former Art Blakey and Miles Davis alto saxophonist who has been running a triumphant show of his own for nearly 20 years, manages to stage what is unmistakably an "act" without blunting his jazz edge.
Garrett was previewing a new album - Beyond the Wall, dedicated to McCoy Tyner, which is released next month. His gig strategy is characteristically adventurous: at the outset, he hoses the audience with scalding Coltranesque free-jazz, then gets steadily funkier as the show goes on. Rocking on his feet like a possessed preacher, Garrett began by pouring his unflagging melodic inventiveness into a 15-minute monologue, while his fiery young band thrashed around him. Impressive Venezuelan piano newcomer Benito Gonzalez (a Tyner devotee) took over for a similar flame-throwing exercise, and bassist Kris Funn demonstrated an agile articulation, coupled with a penetrating earthiness. Garrett then launched into a bugged, organ-toned sax solo, set the audience clapping the beat, and blew clipped call-and-response figures against it.
Garrett's composing knack isn't far from Herbie Hancock's; once he began feeding his listeners the anthemic song-like melodies he's built album successes on, he had the crowd softly singing while he improvised airily over the top. Turning to soprano sax, he and Gonzalez then played a meditative medley of Japanese and Korean folk songs that held the club in complete silence. Garrett wound the show up with the infectious Happy People, a dance-floor groover that Eddie Harris or Grover Washington would have been proud of. Maybe it's an act - but of the unique kind you can only get from four consummate contemporary jazz improvisers.