Carlos Garnett

Under Nubian Skies

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This is Carlos Garnett's third CD this decade after nearly 20 years away from the music business, and it's easily his most consistent and satisfying date. Raw, rough, and tart-sweet à la Jackie McLean, and searching like John Coltrane, Panamanian tenor saxophonist Garnett has his own sound that fills the air with saturated, spiritually oriented notes but never goes overboard with histrionics. What is most impressive is the togetherness of the band; trumpeter Russell Gunn (on seven of the nine tracks) meshes well with Garnett harmonically, while pianist Carlton Holmes has the McCoy Tyner spectrum covered. Bassist Brad Jones is more than a foundation -- he's inspired, adding colors exponentially. The big surprise is drummer Shingo Okudaira, who displays a fresh style of his own -- energetic, spontaneous, and beholden to no other, except perhaps the fire of Elvin Jones. Garnett's greatest achievement on this disc lies in the original music he has composed. The rousing waltz "Dancing Daffodils" has a lilting, trumpet-led melody enforced by a deep ostinato bassline. Garnett goes wittily in and out of harmony on this tour de force -- a potential standard. A Coltrane-ish 5/4 modal wail sets up the title track, while another modal, repeated-piano-chord framework buoys the clarion horn announcements during "Mango Walk." "Epitapher Zackerism" starts on a slower swing, then revs up high. "What" is a good swinger, "Happy Children Song" has a basic unison melody, and "Blues for John C" is a fleet, 12-bar hard bopper with hot solos and trading of fours with Okudaira. Most like McLean, Garnett (with Gunn laying out) digs into the swing standard "My One and Only Love," and the ascending and descending melodic, tonic scale melody of "Down and Up Again" is very reminiscent of "Giant Steps" in its execution and concept. These two tracks showcase Garnett's expressiveness, which is not so much an angst as a reaching for undiscovered microtonalities.

From start to finish on this very good recording, the players hold tension successfully and release it marvelously. They work as a team for a common goal, and use their concentrated energy to create bold new music done Garnett's personal way. Gunn's stark lyricism is a big factor in Garnett's melodic style coming to the surface. It's quite a modern mainstream jazz statement.

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