He’s also capable of nonideological beauty: Old Habits, a duet with Miranda Lambert with echoes of George Jones and Tammy Wynette, or That’s How I Know You Love Me, about the taming of a difficult man written with elegance and complexity by Justin Weaver, Rodney Clawson and Chris Tompkins. And he’s capable of playing it safe, too, with This Kind of Town or Country Radio, which embrace old tropes without improving them.
“I don’t care what you listen to, how you wear your hair, you can paint it blue/Hey, it takes all kinds,” Moore sings on the album’s opener, Old Back in the New School. But really Moore wants it the other way around, for the new to season the old. “I don’t mind some attitude, a rebel heart/Hell, I got one too,” he adds, “but you still gotta walk the line.”
— JON CARAMANICA
PUSHING THE WORLD AWAY, by Kenny Garrett, Mack Avenue
Focus has never seemed like a problem for the alto and soprano saxophonist Kenny Garrett, who at 52 still possesses the taut, molten sound that made him a force nearly 30 years ago. But the title of his new album, Pushing the World Away, is meant to suggest a respite from daily distractions. Judging by the clarity and intensity of the results, Garrett had to do a lot of pushing.
His chosen path as a bandleader builds on the mid-’60s terrain of the John Coltrane Quartet — flagrantly, ingeniously — and there’s a typical amount of slashing polyrhythm and modal expedition here. Which might be a problem if Garrett’s current band, with the pianist Vernell Brown, the bassist Corcoran Holt, the drummer McClenty Hunter and the percussionist Rudy Bird, didn’t do this sort of thing imposingly well. So too do the colleagues who sub in for parts of the album, like the pianist Benito Gonzalez and the drummer Marcus Baylor.
As a composer Garrett is often quick to show his hand. Hey, Chick, a tune with an Iberian flavor, is his nod to Chick Corea, a longtime collaborator; the next track is Chucho’s Mambo, a tribute to the pianist Chucho Valdes. There’s also a springy calypso, J’ouvert (Homage to Sonny Rollins); and a churchly ballad with strings, Brother Brown, for the pianist Donald Brown, who helped produce the album.
Working in that capacity, Brown should have talked Garrett out of a smooth-jazz cover of I Say a Little Prayer. Maybe it’s meant as a palate cleanser before the title track, an odd-metered incantation so literal-minded that it incorporates actual chanting.
— NATE CHINEN