Sunday, at the Carhartt Amphitheatre Stage, alto saxophonist Kenny Garrett's highly anticipated performance sucked. At the very least, it didn’t measure up to his stellar performance from 2007. Last year, the
Thus, I was anxious to hear Garrett again. Last month, I received an advance copy of his new album, Sketches of MD: Live at the Iridium featuring Pharoah Sanders. I loved the album and hoped Garrett would play some of the material. He did, actually, but it wasn’t the same octane fueled playing that one can hear on that new album. Garrett simply played what sounde like a bunch of fusion music. This time, instead of rushing the stage, I just left.
Hours before Garrett's performance, I attended tenor saxophonist
When I got to the Mack Avenue Pyramid Stage, bassist Marion Hayden, pianist Barry Harris, alto saxophonist Charles McPherson and drummer Randy Gillespie had just started a
Backstage, pianist Ken Cox told me that listening to the musicians on the bandstand reminded him of "the old days." Cox and Walden developed their chops together as teens, gigging at the Urban League and the YMCA. “Donald and I thought we’re rich just because we were making money doing what we loved,” Cox recalled.
And speaking of loving, the Walden tribute was my favorite concert on Sunday. Walden’s buddies from the old days played. The students he taught at the
Bassist Hayden arranged the music for the Walden tribute. She organized it chronologically, charting the saxophonist's musical evolution. The musicians played mostly songs from Walden’s albums, Portrait of You and A Monk and A Mingus Among Us, As a result, all the musicians that participated in the tribute played like pieces of Walden’s spirit was inside their instruments.
Cleaver is obviously an unselfish bandleader. Sunday, he had every opportunity to show off his considerable skills, but the drummer delegated most of the workload to saxophonists J. D. Allen and Andrew Bishop. Bishop did some amazing tricks on the soprano sax. When Cleaver finally took a solo, it was straight to the point.
Meanwhile, at the Absopure Waterfront Stage, trumpeter Roy Hargrove’s Quintet was swinging harder than sharecroppers. I got to the stage just in time to hear the Quintet play the title cut from Hargrove’s latest album, Ear Food. He invited
Save for Kenny Garrett’s jumbled fusion set and the weird and eerie tribute to Alice Coltrane, the concerts I attended on Sunday were the most engaging of the fest thus far.
Donald Walden: Paying tribute to the late great.