Musicians from all over the world are promising a rebirth of cool as the GLASGOW INTERNATIONAL JAZZ FESTIVAL comes to town. The List talks to some of the big names and offers a day-by-day guide
to the festival hot spots.
KENNY GARRETT has moved out from Miles Davis's Band to emerge as a key figure on the world jazz scene.
flour. Kenny Mathieson
Miles a ead
Kenny Garrett makes his Glasgow Jazz Festival debut as a leader in the opening concert of this year’s event, but he has been here before. In 1990, the alto saxophonist took the stage with Miles Davis on a memorable festival occasion at the SECC, part of a six-year association with the legendary trumpeter which only ended with Davis’s death in 1992.
‘Obviously that was a very important experience for me,’ he says. ‘To work for Miles was a great stamp of approval, and it brought me to an audience who would not necessarily have known me from my jazz playing at that time. It also allowed me to stretch out and play. and I learned a huge amount about music and about presentation.’
Garrett had already developed a signiﬁcant list of associations when he got the call from Miles in 1986. He had forsaken a college place in order to join the Duke Ellington Orchestra — then run by Duke’s son, Mercer - and spent three formative years in the band. He went on to work with Me] Lewis, Art Blakey, Freddie Hubbard and Woody Shaw, among others, before signing up with Miles.
That extended apprenticeship laid a solid and musically diverse foundation for his own career as a leader, which began with an album for the Dutch-based Criss Cross label, appropriately called Introducing Kenny Garrett. He cut a couple more for Atlantic, then began his current association with Warner Bros, having played on four of Miles’s albums for the label.
The saxophonist really began to hit in the mid- 90s in the USA, although British audiences have had to wait for a belated re-organisation at the label to sample the delights of records like Trilogy (1995), Pursuance: The Music Of John Coltrane
'To work for Miles was a great stamp of approval.’ Kenny Garrett
(1996), or Songbook (1997), his ﬁrst album made up of his own compositions. His newest record will be out here around festival time.
‘The new record is called Simply Said. and basically what I wanted to do was a continuation of the direction I had taken in Songbook. I wanted to deal ﬁrst of all with melody. focusing on the tunes, but using a number of genres. There are things on there that are jazz. and others that have more of a pop flavour, or world beat. and even classical. I like melodies, and sometimes I would rather express a musical idea more directly. which is the idea behind the title.’
Garrett is a firm believer in the importance of a core band. and the new record is built around his quartet, with Shedrick Mitchell on piano. Nat Reeves on bass. and Chris Dave on drums. The album also features a number of guests. including bassist Marcus Miller (a colleague from the days with Miles) and guitarist Pat Metheny. who also played on Pursuance. The saxophonist is now a leading ﬁgure on the contemporary jazz scene, but is unwilling to conﬁne himself in a genre straightjacket.
‘It takes years and years of playing jazz to get to the point where you can deﬁne your own voice and your own way of expressing yourself,’ he says, ‘but when I think of who I am, I see someone who really loves to play in a lot of different genres. I’m a musician, and I never really tried to separate the styles - it’s all music to me. Whatever you play, though, you have to be true to yourself, because people can hear it when you’re not.’
The Kenny Garrett Quartet play at The Old Fruitmarket, Wed 30 Jun. Simply Said is released on Warner Brothers Records on Mon 28 Jun.
All what jazz?
Jazz has never been accurately defined. Life would have been simpler if only the original stuff had been called jazz. It wasn’t, and now we have a whole lot of different - some say mutually exclusive - kinds of jazz. The List sorts out the basics.
TRADITIONAL JAZZ IS rooted in (mainly black) New Orleans and (mainly white) Dixieland styles, and has provided a good time ambiance since the 205. Its most charismatic figure is Louis Armstrong, and it is represented in the festival by the Dutch College Swing Band.
SWING WITH A capital ’5’ is the style ushered in by the big bands in the 30s, when jazz was the pop music of the day. The ensemble playing was more sophisticated and the soloists more important. Leading face has to be Duke Ellington, with the BBC Big Band carrying the flag in the festival.
BEBOP TOOK JAZZ into a more rarified artistic sphere in the clubs of mid-405 New York. It introduced a new emphasis on harmonic complexity and instrumental virtuosity. Charlie Parker is the music's emblem, and Kenny Garrett is a latter-day inheritor of the flame.
BOP GAVE BIRTH to modern jazz, and spawned off-shoots like Hard Bop (505), Post Bop (605), and Neo-Bop (905), all predicated on developments or recapitulations of the style.
BOP ALSO PROVOKED reactions, including Cool Jazz (about to become cool all over again with a biopic on Chet Baker in the works) in the 505, and Modal Jazz, pioneered by George Russell but popularised by Miles Davis's classic Kind Of Blue (1959). Davis and John Coltrane became the modal masters, and influenced Thomasz Stanko's Litania.
FREE JAZZ ERUPTED on the 605 scene with disruptive force, led by Ornette Coleman's emergence and Coltrane's shift into interstellar exploration. Represented in the Art Ensemble of Chicago's more arcane bits.
FUSION HAS COMBINED jazz with rock, funk, soul, techno, hip hop and drum 8: bass. Miles led that gang as well, and its offspring include Vertu, Steps Ahead, Bugge Wesseltoft and Nguyen Le.
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