KENNY GARRETT / “African Exchange Student”

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3 Responses to “KENNY GARRETT / “African Exchange Student””

tayari kwa salaam Says:
April 18th, 2006 at 2:02 pm

“African Exchange Student” and “My Lord” were two of the many jazz tunes that carried me through my phd process. When I heard them, memories of those times floated back to me. Though when I hear “African Exchange Student” I think Kenny Garrett, breath of life let me know that “My Lord” is also Kenny Garrett.

What would our world be like without that undescribable, spirit-rich, soul-filled music called jazz?!

Qawi Says:
April 19th, 2006 at 4:32 pm

Thanks Kalamu and Mtume for another mix. I honestly am not a big fan of the saxaphone, but your article has intrigued me enough to stretch my musical mind a bit. Amen brother Kalamu for saying, "as far as the major record companies are concerned, jazz is nothing but another word for instrumental pop music. It better either be something to dance to or some pretty making-out music, which is that slave mentality Kenny referenced; a slave to the dollar."

It would be grand if musicians could be musicians, but brothers and sisters gotta eat…so their is the lure of commercialism. Don’t know if that is Kenny G’s (not Garrett) motive but…oh well.

Much like Mtume, I didn’t really care for Human Nature either. Not because of the song, I like MJ. However, from a Miles point of view, I put it up (down) there with his Time after Time cover of Cyndi Lauper, lacking the Jazz fusion flare that I got from TuTu, Bitches’ Brew, etc. But, thanks to you both, I can at least say that I heard this song once, LOL. Kenny Garrett does indeed do something at the end, quite remarkable I may add.

As modern day sax men go, I take it neither of you have respect for Joshua Redman or Greg Osby. 🙂


          Mtume says:           

I’ve tried and failed to enjoy Greg Osby’s music, but I like Joshua Redman a lot. A whole lot. One of these days, I’ll get around to posting some of his stuff.


         kalamu sez:          

I respect both Greg Osby and Joshua Redman. In fact when we did a feature on Coltrane’s "Africa," Joshua was one of the people whose work we cited and placed in the jukebox. The point of the Kenny Garrett posting was to talk about "funk" and "jazz." As interesting as Osby and Redman are as jazz musicians, neither of them is as tough a funk player as Kenny Garrett—and that’s not a put down, just a simple evaluation of the recorded evidence.

youngblood Says:
April 21st, 2006 at 12:37 pm

there are two major saxophone players in the world today – the other one is a modern day Pharaoh. Kenny Garrett’s voice dominates the alto saxophone world. the detroit native’s presence in the field of contemporary jazz is like a baobaob flourishing against a barren landscape. apart from Steve Coleman’s ceative concepts in modalism and angular, odd meter rhythms, the lush romanticism of Greg Osby’s compositions and tone, Kenny Garrett’s contemporary jazz sound is both accessible and compelling. African Exchange Student and all the rest of those studio recording – except perhaps Standard of Language which comes as close to a live set as any recent studio recording – does not even begin to give an impression of what goes down at a live Kenny Garrett set. Ask any alto player about Kenney Garrett – they will all tell you that Kenny Garrett is the truth. and if they don’t say that then they’re lying – point blank. don’t even bother to argue – just walk away. make no mistake, Kenny Garrett’s solo on Human Nature featured on Miles Live Around the World is a great moment in recorded jazz. check out the lyricim, check how he slowly developes the theme and variation, the way he builds, the ebb and flow, the give and take, tension and release. Check out how bro-mean heats you up with the foreplay, giving soulful references from Maceo and Grover, before going out on Trane tangents. this cat has chops out the hind parts. Kenny plays with Human Nature like it was an erector set – he builds like a maniacal architech and when he know he’s got you right where he wants you, game over.

this Human Nature solo is a deconstruction. but within deconstruction the process of dismantling gradually reveals the underlying structure. the step by step building of strength from the root. the underlying character, the intent and the underbelly is what deconstruction seeks to expose; the process of growth. this is the art of the builder, the artist. however the true artist builds upon the remembering and it is here – in the remembering that there is an implied resolve to be better because he now has knowledge of what was once hidden. there is a new perspective. though at times the complex display of strength through tragedy produces awe, inspiration can come from the humility of the realization of self – especially when placed in the conrtext of what and who came before. the artist’s (conscious) deconstruction of iconic structures is healthy as it places societal values in uncompromising and unbiased light. it is the source of freedon of expression and of being. Check out how Miles’ band responds to Kenny, the anticipation – they get down like new lovers doin it again like it’s the first time.

As a saxophone player it’s one thing to hit that altissimo register yet quite another thing to have power and articulate clearly in that high register and still manage to have the lyricism of a nightingale. that is musicianship of a high order. and another thing; if you think it’s easy to riff over a one or two chord vamp and maintain creativity and keep it interesting – not only for other musicians but also for the audience – and keep it as funky as Maceo, be as articulate as Dolphy, as powerful as Trane, as soulful as Cannon, I’m telling y’all, that shit ain’t easy. Kenny Garrett ain’t got no respect for the horn at all. If kenny was cheney, the alto would be bush. Kenny be ownin that thing like, what?

there are those who say that the sound of the alto sax in the lower register is that of the moan of waiting. as a deep ruddy hue, it’s warmth vibrates just below the surface of earthy darkness. it is a romantic, blue, anticipatory sound with swaying hips that sing with fat, swollen lips. it’s blood rushing to your stomach while hopes of heaven plummet. is it gettin hot. or is it just Human Nature.

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