Blues Alley – long known to be one of DC’s most cherished and memorable jazz clubs, has hosted countless jazz greats over the years. Founded in 1965 and located in a quaint Georgetown alley, this historic venue has been a favorite of early jazz legends as: Ella Fitzgerald, Charles Mingus, Max Roach, Sonny Rollins, Sarah Vaughn, and Ramsey Lewis to contemporary artists as: Grover Washington, Jr., Tony Bennett, Rachelle Ferrell and Wynton Marsalis.
Jazz musicians who have recorded a Live at Blues Alley album include Dizzy Gillespie, Ahmad Jamal, Ramsey Lewis, Wynton Marsalis, Stanley Turrentine, Eva Cassidy and Grover Washington, Jr.
Urban Heat Advisory recently visited Blues Alley to catch one of our favorite saxophonist – Kenny Garrett perform with his quintet. Garrett was in town for a grueling four day / two shows a night stint before traveling up to NYC to do yet another at the famed Blue Note Jazz Club in Greenwich Village. A testament to the longevity and touring experience of one the greatest saxophonist of our time. Kenny Garrett was born in Detroit, Michigan and first joined the Duke Ellington Orchestra in 1978 led by Duke’s son Mercer Ellington. He later released his first recording as a band leader in 1984 entitled “Introducing Kenny Garrett” and has since recorded an extensive catalog of groundbreaking albums. Over the last thirty years Garrett has performed and recorded with countless jazz greats such as Art Blakey, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, McCoy Tyner, and Pharaoh Sanders – but most notably, his five year stint as sideman of the late great Miles Davis. Kenny Garrett has always brought a vigorous yet melodic, and truly distinctive, alto saxophone sound to each musical situation. The Kenny Garrett Quintet displayed that distinctive sound for a packed house in DC!
It was the final show of the Blues Alley gig on a rainy chilly Sunday night. A line quickly began to form outside the club and down the alley. The early show could be heard from outside and Garrett’s saxophone was in full blast with the crowd erupting in applause. The Kenny Garrett Quintet consist of Kenny Garrett on saxophone; McClenty Hunter (Drums); Vernell Brown (Piano); Corcoran Holt (Bass) and Rudy Bird (Percussion). An eclectic mix of younger musicians form this amazing quintet that support Garrett’s sound remarkably well. Both Corcoran Holt and McClenty Hunter are DC natives, making this tour stop even more special. Holt’s aggressive play is highlighted with funky riffs and basslines that set the foundation for Garrett’s compositions. Hunter’s drumming is strong yet defined and reminiscent of the great Elvin Jones with an added youthfulness and familiarity of other musical genres including DC’s own go-go music. Pianist Vernell Brown provided an interesting melodic approach on some of his more complex solos, aligning with Garrett’s soul-tinged saxophone sound. Veteran percussionist Rudy Bird has also performed and recorded with Miles Davis – among others as The Duke Ellington Orchestra, Michael Jackson, Amy Winehouse, and NAS. Bird’s rhythmic timing and patterns add the extra dynamic to each composition. Garrett’s quintet is sharp and precise – a testament to his ability to recognize talent and to also fuse newer creative influences to his timeless arrangements.
The quintet performed multiple arrangements from Kenny Garrett’s latest release “Do Your Dance“. On the mesmerizing tune “Philly“, Garrett delivered a riveting solo. The title track captured the audience with Garrett passing the microphone around the audience having everyone sing out “Do Your Dance!” The response was amazing transforming the tiny jazz club into a funky backyard party with jazz-goers on their feet dancing at their tables. Garrett also delivered his tribute to Wayne Shorter entitled “Wayne’s Thang” which offers an interesting mix of swing and soul backed by the dynamic rhythmic drumming from McClenty Hunter and blues infused bass line from Corcoran Holt. For an encore, Garrett let the band highlight their talents over a solid go-go beat bringing the DC audience to their feet! Garrett improvised along with the musicians for a rousing close to a stellar performance!
A remarkably humble musician with an incredulous resume – Kenny Garrett gave the crowd another excellent performance here at Blues Alley in DC. Similar to his amazing performance last summer here at DC’s Jazz Festival, Garrett gives his all in each and every show. His ability to bridge musical talent from past to present to future is evident on his sound and allows for the preservation of a cherished music. You know the concert was stellar when you find yourself looking up his next tour dates shortly after leaving the venue.
For info / tour dates: www.kennygarrett.com
– Jamaal Bailey