Since his late teens, Kenny Garrett has lived the kind of life most musicians only fantasize about. He's been a sideman for legends like Miles Davis, Art Blakey, Freddie Hubbard, Woody Shaw, and the Duke Ellington Orchestra. Emerging in the mid-'80s as one of contemporary jazz's most exciting and eclectic new solo artists, the saxophonist's albums have earned him worldwide recognition, four-star reviews, and top spots on reader polls and Rolling Stone's "hot list." Known for years primarily for his adventurous playing and sparkling improvisations, Garrett finally came into his own as a composer with his 1997 Grammy-nominated Warner Bros. release Songbook -- his first album comprised entirely of his own compositions. The concept behind Simply Said, Garrett's latest Warner Jazz release, must have been to further reflect his growth as a songwriter, keeping memorable melodies as the focus while exploring -- as the stylistically diverse performer has always done -- new exotic, rhythmic possibilities within the jazz framework. While Garrett has been very successful in the past covering the classics of influential artists (as he did on his previous Warners projects, 1993's Black Hope, 1995's Triology, and 1996's Pursuance: Music of John Coltrane), his growth as a songwriter has unleashed a desire to journey beyond what people might expect based on past projects. While Garrett kept his playing simple on lush, hypnotic ballads like "Can I Just Hold Your Hand?," "Sounds Like Winter," and "Words Can't Express," he and his core unit of gospel pianist/organist Shedrick Mitchell, acoustic bassist Nat Reeves, and drummer Chris Dave can't help but stir up the fires of the unexpected throughout the rest of the collection. Playful titles like "Organized Colors" (a nearly ten-minute piece incorporating a multitude of shades from silky and seductive to swinging and percussive), "Delta Bali Blues," "G.T.D.S" (aka "Give the Drummer Some"), and the whimsical piano, sax, and percussion jam "Charlie Brown Goes to South Africa" reflect the spirit Garrett was after here. Simply Said also features guest appearances by drummer Jeff Watts, electric bassist Marcus Miller ("G.T.D.S"), and Pat Metheny (who plays an atypical harmony role on "Yellow Flower" and "Sounds Like Winter").
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AllMusic Review by Jonathan Widran