Kenny Garrett – Pushing the World Away ★★★★

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Mack Avenue MAC1078 Kenny Garrett (as, ss, chant, p), Benito Gonzalez (p), Corcoran Holt (b), Marcus Baylor (d), Rudy Bird (perc), Ravi Best (t), Vernell Brown (p, chant), McClenty Hunter (d, v), Mark Whitfield Jr (d), Jean Baylor (v), Carolin Pook (vln), Brian Sanders (clo), Jen Herman (vla). Rec. date not stated

Last year’s Seeds from the Underground CD was a Grammy magnet, collecting two nominations – for ‘solo’ and ‘best instrumental album’ – as well as winning a prestigious German equivalent, aka an ECHO Jazz award. Garrett’s very unlikely to top that with Pushing the World Away, even though this exhilarating new recording – his third for the Michigan-based Mack Avenue label – feels like a real step up. With a rotating line-up mixing youth and experience, the band have a ‘live’ dynamic that’s obviously benefitted from the extensive on-the-road workouts promoting the previous CD.

Unlike Seeds... though, this is not a ‘tribute’ album as such. But Garrett never stops remembering the legacy of his elders and mentors, and a homage to a close confidant and collaborator Mulgrew Miller who sadly passed away earlier this year is an explosive opener, featuring the effusive young McCoy Tyner-ish Venezuelan pianist Benito Gonzalez, the star on his previous CD. Garrett plays to the strengths of the personnel, with pianist Vernell Brown and the fiery drummer McClenty Hunter especially cooking up a storm. A couple of dedications might state the obvious – a Moorish-tinged ‘Hey Chick’ takes a bow to his Five Peace Band supergroup bandmate and the Guadeloupian ‘L’Ouvert’ is a love letter to Sonny Rollins – but the spirit and sheer enthusiasm of the recording is never compromised. And Garrett’s only non-original, a coolly odd-metered version of Burt Bacharach’s ‘I Say a Little Prayer’ feels surprisingly fresh. Garrett has hit another high in his recording career. This month’s dates in London at Ronnie Scott’s suddenly look all the more mouth watering.

Selwyn Harris