Once upon a time there was a strong connection between jazz and dance. Think ‘big band era.’ Nowadays, it seems the connection has been downplayed to a great extent – it’s all about the jazz club where people listen intently (or pretend to), whisper in conversation only when necessary, and clap when they’re supposed to. I love it, yet I also love jazz that makes you want to at least bop along, if not get up and dance around.
I’m interested in picking out the groovy or dance-related gems from the repertoire of the ‘serious’ concert jazz musicians and highlighting these, attempting to show that the connection is not lost, it just may need to be rekindled.
An album I recently came across is by one of my favourite alto sax players, Kenny Garrett, and is called Pushing the World Away. It reminded me that one of my all-time favourite tracks – going back to 1998 when I first heard it – in the “groovy jazz” vein (and just in general) is his composition “Wayne’s Thang” from his album Triology. I challenge you not to move along when you listen to it – it’s awesome! But in the interest of expanding on my ‘collection’, I’d like to point out his tribute to saxophonist/composer Sonny Rollins on the track “J’ouvert.” It’s along the lines of Rollins’ “St. Thomas” – another groovy gem – featuring a similar calypso beat. Kenny has been quoted as saying:
…during one of my trips to Guadeloupe, I was composing an upbeat, happy piece about the Caribbean islands, and that made me think of Sonny. I call it ‘J’ouvert,’ which is the Creole name for Carnival. It’s my ‘St. Thomas.’ I hope Sonny likes it.
Here’s a link to an article about Kenny Garrett and this album Pushing the World Away: