Kenny Garrett

Wednesday, Dec. 15, through Saturday, Dec. 18; Backstage Bistro

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His initials are K.G., his first name is Kenny and he plays saxophone, but that's about the only similarities you'll be able to dredge up between the smarmy noodlings of Kenny G and the inspired, cutting-edge approach of alto saxophonist Kenny Garrett.

Garrett, a native of Detroit, just turned 39 in October, but he's already carved out a two-decade musical career that includes stints with Miles Davis, Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, Woody Shaw and the underappreciated band Out of the Blue and even a regular touring gig with Sting. And Garrett has also put together an impressive string of recordings as a leader that has earned him a reputation among critics and fellow musicians as one of the finest alto-sax players on the planet.

But for some reason, Garrett hasn't gained a very high profile among average jazz fans. Maybe it's because he focuses on his music much more than self-promotion. Check out any of his seven recordings released in the '90s -- from African Exchange Student on Atlantic to this year's Simply Said on Warner Bros. -- and you'll search in vain for any lengthy liner notes in praise of Garrett's musical talent. Instead, it's just a list of tunes, musicians and a few select thank-yous.

Garrett would rather let the music speak for itself, and it certainly comes through loud and clear on recordings such as the ones listed above, plus Triology, Songbook and Pursuance: The Music of John Coltrane (all of which made our "best of" lists over the past few years).

At his Bistro appearances this Wednesday through Saturday, Garrett will be accompanied by Nick Smith on piano, Nate Reeves on bass and drummer Marcus Baylor (another of those fine young St. Louis musicians now making waves on the national scene). As far as we can recall, Garrett has never performed in St. Louis as a leader -- which makes this appearance even more of a must-see for jazz fans.

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