“The concept initially was about trying to get some of the musical sounds that I remembered as a kid growing up – sounds that lift your spirit from people like John Coltrane, Aretha Franklin, and Marvin Gaye. When I started to think about them, I realized it was the spirit from my ancestors.”
– Kenny Garrett
On his stellar new album, “Sounds From The Ancestors,” saxman Kenny Garrett opens and closes the collection with an infectious foot-tapper called “It’s Time to Come Home.” Written as a call-to-action for his grandson playing outside, the song also reflects the album’s genesis and Kenny’s own play with iconic Cuban pianist (and early 32 Bar Blues Voice of the Art) Chucho Valdés. “When I first met Chucho’s percussionist, he was playing a Yoruban chant,” Kenny says. “I thought, what is that? That music, I was searching for that.” He traced Yoruba back to Western Africa and tapped the origins of blues, jazz and gospel.
With a vibrant career touching six decades, 20 albums, numerous DownBeat top sax honors and a Grammy award, Kenny is one of jazz’s most influential living masters. His style is utterly unique – gritty, rooted and rhythmic – alive with spiritual energy and emotive melodic phrasing. And he’s played with legends like Miles Davis, Art Blakey, Donald Byrd, Freddie Hubbard, and Woody Shaw – drawing wisdom and inspiration from all of them. “You know you’re fortunate because you got a chance to play with those musicians,” he says. “They share the information with you. And I do the same thing with my musicians. I think that’s how it’s supposed to go.”
Nestled warmly in Yoruba, Latin and Afro-Cuban beats, indeed the whole album is a message to the artists who shaped Kenny’s life and career. “Hargrove” plays tribute to the late, great trumpeter with searing hard-bop punch. “For Art’s Sake” rocks homage to two legendary drummers, Art Blakey and Tony Allen. And there are shades of Coltrane, Gaye, Franklin and Stevie Wonder throughout. Recently honored with an NAACP Image Award, “Sounds From The Ancestors” is a spectacular achievement from a musician at the top of his art.