Kenny Garrett draws on a rich history of music with Sounds From the Ancestors

For his 20th album as a leader, Kenny Garrett combines the musical history of Detroit with the rich influence of his ancestry.

Sounds From the Ancestors is the alto saxophonist and composer’s fifth album with Mack Avenue; it follows 2016’s Do Your Dance.

The album reflects the tradition of jazz, R&B and gospel in Garrett’s hometown of Detroit while reverberating with both ancestral and contemporary sounds pulled from France, Cuba, Nigeria and Guadeloupe.

“The concept initially was about trying to get some of the musical sounds that I remembered as a kid growing up — sounds that lift your spirit from people like John Coltrane, A Love Supreme; Aretha Franklin, Amazing Grace; Marvin Gaye, What’s Going On; and the spiritual side of the church,” Garrett says. “When I started to think about them, I realized it was the spirit from my ancestors.”

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The title track showcases Garrett’s love for Afro-Cuban jazz, and It’s Time to Come Home draws from Garrett’s experiences playing with iconic Cuban pianist and composer Chucho Valdés. Hargrove pays tribute to the late, great trumpeter and composer Roy Hargrove while also slyly referencing John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme. When the Days Were Different channels Sounds of Blackness’s 1991 gospel classic Optimistic, and For Art’s Sake pays homage to drummers Art Blakey and Tony Allen.

For the recording of Sounds from the Ancestors, Garrett enlisted a core ensemble of musicians he has recorded and toured with in the recent past: pianist Vernell Brown, Jr., bassist Corcoran Holt, drummer Ronald Bruner and percussionist Rudy Bird.

The album also features guest appearances from drummer Lenny White, pianist and organist Johnny Mercier, trumpeter Maurice Brown, conguero Pedrito Martinez, batá percussionist Dreiser Durruthy and singers Dwight Trible, Jean Baylor, Linny Smith, Chris Ashley Anthony and Sheherazade Holman. On a couple of cuts, Garrett even plays the piano and sings.

Garrett’s career has included stints with Miles Davis, Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers, Donald Byrd, Freddie Hubbard, Woody Shaw and the Duke Ellington Orchestra. The Grammy Award winner has been an acclaimed solo artist for more than 30 years, and he’s recognized as one of modern jazz’s most influential living masters.

Sounds From the Ancestors will be released Aug. 27 via Mack Avenue.