Shows I’ll Never Forget: Kenny Garrett Quintet, October 11, 2013

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At Ronnie Scott’s in London: Perhaps for Kenny Garrett and his quintet, it was just another night … just another gig. But for me, and I suspect for others in the audience at Ronnie Scott’s that night, it wasn’t. It was one of those nights you don’t forget about. It’s one that you’ll continue to mention years later, a story that you always tell at parties and which your kids will eventually roll their eyes to.

What occurred for me on this night, and what I suspect for others too, was nothing short of miraculous. It’s the sort of thing that can awake a sleeping spirit from years and perhaps decades of slumber. The music created a whirlwind of an effect that swept the listener away into the world of the music — a world with different rules and different laws than the ones we are usually accustomed to in our everyday life. It had a trance-like affect that absorbed through the listeners’ entire body.

Throughout the entire set, there were continuous roars from the crowd; dancing and clapping and tears. There were grunts, yells, and sweat from the musicians. And, there was non-stopped cheering that unified the audience and musicians as if they were all one–participating in the same dance.

But with all of that, there is one moment for me that stands out among them all: About half way through the set, Kenny and the group played a song called “Haynes Here” in 3/4 or 6/8 time. In the middle of the song, while interacting and facing the drummer, Kenny repeated the same line over and over for about two or three minutes. Then, as if by some sheer twist of fate, parting the clouds and descending from the sky above, came one single note from Kenny’s saxophone. One yell, one scream, that he held out, that transformed the way I will forever again approach, listen to, and think about music.

One note. That was all it took. One note at the right time, at the right place, with the right musicians. One note out of the millions that I’ve heard in 25 years of my life.

That one note, which he held for a couple of measures, hit me like a ton of bricks. It knocked me out completely from where I was. At that very moment, it was as if I saw another side of life that had been hidden by the illusions of the present world and societal norms. I saw what it must have been like for the first humans on this earth, what it was like for the hunter and gatherer tribes thousands of years ago when they were listening to music. It was like a bolt of lightning that hit the very core of who I am. That’s the only way that I can describe it.

There is no doubt in my heart and mind that the spirit of John Coltrane is with this man Kenny Garrett, and in his music. I wonder if Kenny sees what Coltrane saw — if he hears what Coltrane heard.

In all honesty, the power of the music from this night brought all of us who were open to it sitting in the audience back to the very nature and essence of our humanity, of what it means, and what we’re supposed to feel like on this earth. It brought to light what life could be, what it was meant to be.

I hope that Kenny and the others in the band read this. I hope that they can receive and accept my gratitude for the gift that they gave me. I am nowhere near a musical level that most professionals are on. I don’t completely understand the complexity and intention of their music on the stage that night. I certainly do not know all of the history, language and theory of this music. But I do know what I felt and there’s no doubt about that: It was transformative.

There is great power in his music, a power all musicians should strive to attain.

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Kenny Garrett and his band are set to play the Iridium in New York City from December 6-8, 2013.

David Greenberg

David Greenberg

David Greenberg is a PhD researcher in music psychology at the University of Cambridge in England.He also plays saxophone in various groups including the Cambridge University Jazz Orchestra. Follow him on Twitter: @dgreenberg7. Contact Something Else! at [email protected]
David Greenberg
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