Plutarch wrote that "Music, to create harmony, must investigate discord." Kenny Garrett explores hard-driving dissonance on opening tracks of his recent release "Standard of Language." On the opening track, Cole Porter’s standard ‘What Is Thing Called Love?’, the band full-out erupts in triumph and splendor. It is played swiftly with an array of sharp edges and displays Garrett’s impressive technical virtuosity on the saxophone. This is followed by ‘Kurita Sensei’ which is equally relentless and throbbing. The influence of Coltrane is clearly evident in terms of scope and depth and speed. Garrett wails, but remains fully in control. There is beauty is such eloquent dissonance.
Garrett is clearly interested in language. While ‘Kurita Sensei’ is dedicated to his Japanese language teacher, Garrett is really after different forms of communication. On ‘Native Tongue,’ Garrett speaks slowly and cleanly articulates compassionate melodic lines. Some of the pieces may be like listening to the cadences of foreign languages or dialects, and so at times it takes awhile to get used to and understand what is trying to be conveyed. The dissonance on some of the tracks may momentarily be disturbing or off-putting until it all eventually sinks in, perhaps after repeated listens, like the completion of a complicated jigsaw puzzle. At that point of a recognized pattern or completion, there is harmony. ‘Standard of Language I II III’ is the album’s high point, but it does require careful attention to the jabs, swirls, rhythm, beat and what is not overtly articulated (i.e., the spaces between notes) to decipher what is going on. This is not only an extremely interesting piece, but an extraordinarily well-executed one. You might say that this song and this overall album represent a high form of communication.
Garrett’s band is highly skilled and disciplined as a unit. While it is tight as a band, it swings hard together and allows the creative process to unfold. Like a distant relative from another country, "Standard of Language" is absolutely worth the effort to get to know.