Sax Man Kenny Garrett Aims To Make The Crowd Move In “Do Your Dance” Collaboration with Dance Ensemble Jazz Antigua at Playboy Jazz Festival 2017
by A. Scott Galloway
Saxophonist/Composer Kenny Garrett is no stranger to the Playboy Jazz Festival both as a leader and featured sideman. This year on Sunday June 11, he is animating a special presentation of his most recent CD, Do Your Dance (Mack Avenue – 2016), by joining forces with the Jazz Antigua dance ensemble for a set that promises to be soulful, multi-cultural, highly contagious and irresistibly interactive! His band will include pianist Vernell Brown Jr. (an L.A. native whose family will be in the house), drummer Marcus Baylor, bassist Corcoran Holt and percussionist Rudy Bird. Garrett breaks down what we can expect in the quick chat that follows.
A Scott Galloway: Do you find anything unique about playing the Playboy Jazz Festival and/or the Hollywood Bowl?
Kenny Garrett: What’s special about the Bowl is people you don’t normally see at clubs come out for jazz…having a picnic and enjoying the music. It’s a mixture of people and a different audience for me. I intend to bring them some music they can enjoy themselves to.
Galloway: The Playboy Jazz Festival has a colorful history of melding music with dancers on stage – African, Caribbean, South American, youth and Tango mash ups. How do you intend to incorporate dance with your quartet?
Garrett: My music and dance stems back to my song “Happy People” (perhaps Garrett’s greatest radio and concert “hit” composition as the title track of his 2002 project which was produced by Marcus Miller, who is also performing at this year’s festival on Saturday). On my last album, Do Your Dance, my goal was to make some songs that people could dance to and not feel inhibited – inspire them to just “do them”…do THEIR dance. For my video I envisioned people from all over the world dancing to the groove in their own way because that’s what I have seen as a world traveler of music. In Europe and Japan, I wanted those people to see people like them reflect images of themselves. When talk came up about incorporating that at the Playboy Jazz Festival, I thought, “Great!” That’s what we do anyway. I like when the audience become the dancers and part of the show.
This will be my first time working with professional dancers on a certain level – though we’ve had everyone from ballet dancers to hip hop dancers on our stage. It’s beautiful to see. Our main goal is to get people to enjoy it by participating in it. They’re not just going to be doing professional dancing. They’re going to be doing some of everything. We have a part that’s a `70s/`80s vibe that everybody can relate to. Some other parts are a little different and I can’t wait to see how people respond to that! Mainly what we’re trying to do is cover a lot of different cultures – African, Afro-Cuban – whatever kind of dance we can squeeze in there.
The important thing for me is just because we have the “professional” dancers there, I don’t want the audience to feel like they can’t dance. It’s about everybody dancing. Because everybody’s got a dance: “their dance.”
Galloway: So we’re talking elements of improvised, “get down” dance as well as choreographed sequences?
Garrett: Well, if you ask me, I believe some will be organized but most of it will be spontaneous! Jazz Antigua is a dance ensemble but the thing about it is, with this music, it’s just a natural thing that happens. I want to leave that element of surprise in there. So, yes, they’re professional dancers but what they do is all about where the music takes them. I’m really excited and looking forward to it.
A. Scott Galloway
The Urban Music Scene
June 9, 2017