While his alto saxophone playing has drawn comparisons to Charlie Parker and his soprano sax style to the great John Coltrane, Kenny Garrett's actual musical voice has been described as intense, straight-ahead swing- and funk-flavored hard bop and free jazz. On Standard of Language, the multi-Grammy nominee brings a muscular yet lyrical eloquence to nine songs -- five of which were recorded during Garrett's September 11, 2001, recording sessions, but never released as intended on Happy People because of day's tragic circumstances. Kenny Garrett stretches his musical standard with such great jazz luminaries as Chris Dave, an awesome drummer who has been compared to Tony Williams; Charnett Moffett (also a veteran of Tony Williams' band) on acoustic bass, more recently associated with McCoy Tyner and Ornette Coleman; and pianist Vernell Brown, a veteran from the free jazz school. Garrett blows your mind with the protean swing of "XYZ," featuring freestyle blowing that literally rules this esoteric yet melodic recording. Additionally, Moffett offers an awesome bowing technique on his acoustic bass solo that defies gravity, while Dave and Brown offer their stylistic contrast and swing like there's no tomorrow; in jazz terminology, they're burning. The program ends with the epic three-part title track and for over 11 minutes Garrett mesmerizes listeners with his implementation of Coleman's "harmolodic" musical theory, Coltrane-like "sheets of sound," and a circular breathing technique that is unbelievable. Of his eight recordings for Warner Bros., Standard of Language is by far Kenny Garrett's greatest.
Standard of Language Review
by Paula Edelstein