My cousin got a chance to see Kenny Garrett live some years back and the comment that he made was, "Man! He really knows his Coltrane!" This particular cousin is quite a jazz pianist (he goes to Berklee for the summers) and he knows his Coltrane too. When Kenny Garrett decided to record a tribute to Coltrane, he didn't make himself sound like Coltrane. Instead, he took the spirit of Coltrane and brilliantly played it with his own sound, along with the brilliant accompaniment of Pat Metheny, Rodney Whitaker and Brian Blade.
The inclusion of Pat Metheny on guitar and the absence of piano is one peculiar thing about this album. Maybe I'm just so used to hearing the unique sound of MyCoy Tyner on my Coltrane albums, that I was a little apprehensive when I picked up this album. But Pat Metheny is exactly the ingredient that Kenny Garrett needed to round up his sound, with Pat Metheny's unique composing sound and intense bebop solos on his guitar. Just listen to how Pat Metheny's accompaniment set the mood in "Lonnie's Lament", one of Coltrane's unfamiliar but beautiful composition.
Brian Blade provides the drumming powerhouse of the quartet and Rodney Whitaker takes a bow to Paul Chambers and Jimmy Garrison as he sets the somber and dark tone in "Alabama."
Another welcome surprise from this album is that Kenny Garrett decided to include the more unfamiliar Coltrane tunes, choosing "Countdown", the aforementioned "Lonnie's Lament", and "Liberia" instead of the usual cliche such as "My Favorite Things", "Afro Blue" or "Mr. P.C." "Giant Steps" provided the vehicle to show Kenny Garrett and PM's instrument virtuosity, and "Pursuance" and "Alabama" show the depth of the music that they play. An original composition "Latifa" features Pat Metheny on guitar synth and Kenny Garrett wailing off and feeding off each other's sound.
This album is a refreshing tribute to Coltrane, and I'm glad I picked it up since it opened my ears to other lesser known Coltrane that I wouldn't be able to appreciate as much otherwise.