Jazz could either be intense and intellectual or it could be fun
and entertaining. Kenny Garrett chose the latter in his jazz masters concert at
the gateway of India, Mumbai on the 25th of January 2006.
The concert kicked off exactly one hour behind schedule with an announcement
that one member, trumpet player Nicholas Payton, was unable to make it due to
some injury. It’s a good thing two members weren’t injured or else the concert
would have started two hours late according to local event management logistics.
Anyway, Kenny and his brilliant young rhythm section made up of Carlos McKinney
(piano), Kristopher Funn (bass), and Ronald Brunner (drums), fired on all
four cylinders from the word go, displaying sheer virtuosity in one magical
burst of uptempo swing.Having made their statement to the purists in the audience, the band
proceeded on to party time with one chord hip-hop grooves, funky synthesizers
and every jazz purists blasphemic nightmare… electronically processed
saxophone! Kenny seemed to be having fun onstage with his new electronic toy,
producing sometimes sensational other times eerie sounds out of his horn that
sounded like the old gateway creaking open wearily to welcome American jazz into
India, the home of improvising maestros (Indian classical musicians).
Three tracks down, it was time for a 40 minute break! Ms. Compere comes up
again and announces a break for all those in the audience who would like to
answer natures call if you please, or maybe for all those purists in the
audience who were just too pissed off with Kenny’s funkified saxophone.
Anyway, the band’s back after the early break and once again one chord
hip-hop rules. So much for all the years spent studying the subtle intricacies
of jazz harmony. As long as the boys on stage were having fun so were we. Lisa
Henry joined the party with a couple of scat heads that could have been composed
on the way from her hotel to the sound check earlier in the afternoon. She made
an immediate impression on the Indian audience with some scorching scat passages
that some of our Indian classical one chord vocal improvisation maestros would
call a lesson out of year one in a ten year guru-shiksha parampara.
Just as it is the case in almost every other sphere, India is shining and it
won’t be long before Indian jazz maestros (specially the ones with an Indian
classical foundation) rules planet jazz!
[Kenny Garrett photo courtesy of Warner Brothers].