Interplay. Whether I’m taking in straight ahead, bebop-style jazz or more out-there stuff, it’s all about listening:
— Is the bass player just holding down the changes or is he conspiring with the drummer?
— Is the piano player supporting the sax (and while I’m at it, everybody else!) in an interesting way or is he just going along for the ride?
— Is the drummer “making a statement”?
— Does the intensity pick up with each subsequent chorus because of the combined inertia of the group effort?
If after listening to a new record I can answer “yes” to these questions then it’s a keeper. In the case of Kenny Garrett’s Standard Of Language, the answer was “oh, yeah!”
Even if I was unfamiliar with Garrett’s Coltrane tribute Persuance, the rhythm section here would have reminded me of Trane’s great Elvin Jones/Jimmy Garrison/McCoy Tyner combination. On Standard Of Language, we get Chris Dave on drums, Vernell Brown on piano and the great Charnett Moffett on bass. There’s some serious, and seriously fun playing here.
Oh, and the sax? Kenny Garrett is often called “the best” alto player out there right now. I don’t know if this is a useful statement. After all, this isn’t a competition. I mean, what’s the point of comparing Kenny Garrett with, say, Peter Brotzmann? Or even John Zorn? Definitely an apples/oranges kind of thing.
What I will say is that Garrett is a fun player who can put together some killer tunes … over which he lays some fiery and inspiring solos.
Of the 9 tunes on Standard Of Language, all but one were original (the first track is a wild reworking of the standard “What Is This Thing Called Love?”). Over each tune Garrett and his crew conspire to make a big (and fun) jazz noise.