CD Review: Alex Garnett – Serpent

Alex Garnett – Serpent
(Whirlwind Recordings WR4615. CD Review by Chris Parker

Born in 1970, and having performed in 30-odd countries worldwide in a career that’s seen him work with everyone from John Dankworth and Humphrey Lyttelton to the Rolling Stones and Phil Robson, Alex Garnett has waited till now to produce his first album featuring his own material.

He’s done it in style, mind you: fronting a stellar, snappy, full-on rhythm section (pianist Anthony Wonsey, bassist Michael Janisch, drummer Willie Jones III) and pulling out all the stops with a variety of great originals embracing everything from tumultuous bop to bruised ballads and even a no-holds-barred closer, ‘Atonement’ based (loosely) on ‘The Saints’.

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Garnett is a muscular, gutsy but sensitive saxophonist (his heroes range from Hank Mobley, Joe Henderson and Dexter Gordon to George Garzone and Joe Lovano), and he knows how to spark a band – not that this one, driven by the rousing, crackling energy of Jones and the lithe exuberance of Janisch, not to mention the sparkling dexterity of Wonsey, needs much encouragement – and this is, consequently, a thoroughly enjoyable and refreshingly unpretentious album, unfussily recorded in what sound like first takes, so that the overall effect is of a hot live performance.

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