Kenny Garrett

Released March 12, 2002

Jazzweek No1 Year End Jazz Chart 2002




Happy People is the first CD by alto saxophonist Kenny Garrett (shown sitting) since 1999’s Simply Said. The CD’s 11 tracks cover all the ground that Garrett is known for, from straightahead burning to contemporary jazz-funk. Like his last two CDs, 1997’s Songbook and Simply Said, Garrett’s writing carries the album: the saxophonist composed 10 of the 11 cuts; “Asian Medley” is a combo of Far Eastern tunes arranged by Garrett. Coming to fame as a sideman with Miles Davis in the late 1980s, Kenny Garrett has evolved into one of the finest young saxophone stylists of his era. Like his former boss, Garrett is open to different avenues of jazz, and with Marcus Miller, another of Davis’s late-period associates, handling the production, Happy People is informed by both traditional and funky attitudes. What never gets lost is Garrett’s fluency and warmth on the alto and soprano horns; you can hear the bebop and modal jazz proficiency in all he plays, even when the environment speaks more of today than of earlier jazz eras. Although the saxophonist’s sharp quartet — with the ace bassist Charnett Moffett — shapes the tracks, room is found for special guests to enliven various performances, including the legendary vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson and singer Jean Norris, whose vocal scatting on the title track is a delight. There’s plenty of meaty improvising from all involved, but still, the show is never stolen from the leader. Garrett may have come up under Davis’s shadow, but as he proves here in solo after solo, he’s become his own man.

Track Listing:

1. Song for DiFang (Kenny Garrett) feat: Marcus Miller/ Michael “Patches” Stewart 5:26

2. Happy People (Kenny Garrett) feat: Jean Norris / Michael “Patches” Stewart 5:12

3. Tango in 6 (Kenny Garrett) feat: Bobby Hutcherson 5:52

4. Ain’t Nothing but the Blues (Kenny Garrett) feat: Randy Razz 5:11

5. Song #8 (Kenny Garrett) feat: Marcus Baylor / Jean Norris 3:42

6. Halima’s Story (Kenny Garrett) feat: Bobby Hutcherson 5:32

7. Monking Around (Kenny Garrett) feat: Bobby Hutcherson 4:43

8. A Hole in One (Kenny Garrett) 5:59

9. Thessalonika (Kenny Garrett) feat: Bobby Hutcherson 4:50

10. Asian Medley: Akatonbo/Arirang/Tsubasawo Kudasai (Kunihiko Murai) 7:03

11. Brother B. Harper (Kenny Garrett) 7:59


Kenny Garrett: saxophones

Marcus Miller: electric bass

Charnett Moffett: bass

Vernon Brown: piano

Chris Dave: drums

Marcus Baylor: drums

Bobby Hutcherson: vibes (3, 6, 7, 9)

Jean Norris: vocals

Recorded September, 2001, at Hannibal Studios, Santa Monica, CA and Oceanway Studios, Los Angeles, CA

Produced by Marcus Miller and Kenny Garrett

Recorded and mixed by Bill Schnee

Mastered by Greg Calbi

Photography by Kwaku Alston

Art Direction: Stephen Walker (6)

Dedicated to those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001.


As of 2002, Kenny Garrett had spent a decade recording for Warner Bros., with Happy People being his seventh release for the major label. That was a remarkable accomplishment in an era when, to succeed, it seemed that jazz musicians either had to adopt pop-oriented contemporary jazz as their style or, if they stayed in a traditional mode, be, uh, dead. Garrett remained very much alive, but Happy People demonstrated the strategies that the alto saxophonist had developed to maintain his precarious status. Basically, he took a little from both of those successful approaches. As on his previous album, Simply Said, he employed Marcus Miller on a selective basis as an electric bassist, also promoting Miller to co-producer. Miller, who knew his way around contemporary jazz, helped turn the opening track, “Song for DiFang,” into the kind of number that potentially could be played on smooth jazz radio stations. And those stations probably also would feel at home with the title track, slotted second in the album’s sequence, which featured vocals by Jean Norris. Indeed, if you stopped listening there, you’d classify Happy People as a contemporary jazz album. But Garrett turned gradually more traditional as the album went on, and he also supplied signposts to his illustrious (and dead) predecessors, humorously imitating former employer Miles Davis’ harsh whisper of a voice at the start of “Ain’t Nothing but the Blues,” dedicating “Monk-ing Around” to Thelonious Monk, and, in the closing track, “Brother B. Harper,” which nominally concerned saxophonist Billy Harper, actually sounding much more like John Coltrane. What kept Happy People from being a compromised effort was Garrett’s always-impressive playing, but it was certainly a record that carefully touched a lot of bases.

William Ruhlmann (Allmusic)