Kenny Garrett's "Triology" and "Songbook" were two of the most ambitious and most accomplished jazz albums of the '90s. The alto saxophonist's latest release, "Simply Said," is much less ambitious but is just as accomplished within its limited scope. The new disc doesn't have the knotty themes and free-wheeling improvisation of the albums that won Garrett comparisons to Wayne Shorter and Ornette Coleman. As the title implies, "Simply Said" states its attractive melodies and rippling rhythms plainly and never does anything to distort or obscure them.
Within these transparent arrangements, however, the playing is superb and the variations as imaginative as they are subtle. Garrett's 10 originals boast delicious melodies, which are kept at the forefront by Garrett's sweet tone on the alto and soprano sax. In other words, this is the best David Sanborn album ever released.
The album's one failure is the vocal number, "Back Where You Started," but the tributes to Vince Guaraldi and Bobby Hutcherson are heartfelt and the acoustic numbers "Delta Bali Blues" and "Can I Just Hold Your Hand?" are especially tuneful. Guests Pat Metheny and Marcus Miller add a jolt to the electric numbers, "Sounds Like Winter" and "Simply Said," while the nine-minute "Organized Colors," with Jeff Watts and Mulgrew Miller, is a reminder of Garrett's bigger ambitions.
Appearing Friday through Sunday at Blues Alley. To hear a free Sound Bite from Kenny Garrett, call Post-Haste at 202/334-9000 and press 8128. (Prince William residents, call 690-4110.)