Kenny Garrett is among the most fervent, committed young voices to emerge on the alto saxophone. As a creative improviser and solo voice, he ranks right up there with those originals seeking to extend on the alto's proud history in the post-Coltrane era. His playing also compares favorably with the classic work of older masters.
But then Garrett is already a youthful veteran, with distinguished pedigrees in the Duke Ellington Orchestra, Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers and Miles Davis' final working groups. Garrett's last Warner Bros. release, BLACK HOPE, presented him in varied programmatic settings--from heady jazz-funk to hard bopping blues. TRIOLOGY exposes him as never before, in a revealing trio setting with the swinging young drummer Brian Blades and bassist Kiyoshi Kitagawa.
The trio format forces the enterprising saxophonist to create all the harmonic and melodic tension by himself. And with his tart throaty tone, cutting attack, bluesy contours and harmonic fluidity, Garrett is more than able to sustain interest. On "Delfeayo's Dilemma," "Pressing The Issue" and "What Is This Thing Called Love?" he rises to the challenge of thorny chord changes and breakneck tempos with tremendous rhythmic intensity and lyric wit. Garrett is also a convincing ballad player, as his tender reading of "A Time For Love" and his little soft shoe through "In Your Own Sweet Way" demonstrate. His tone at times suggests the brawny alto work of Julius Hemphill and Jackie McLean, yet Garrett's main influences seem to be tenor men such as John Coltrane and Wayne Shorter, whom he honors with a driving "Giant Steps" and a sanctified "Wayne's Thang."