Life Builders: Carlos Garnett

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Maestro Carlos Garnett

Next in my life builders series is Carlos Garnett, a tenor saxophonist who I had the honor of performing with here in Houston in his Latin jazz ensemble called the Latin Jazztet. Will Cruz and Carlos co-led the band until Carlos moved back to Panama where he lives now.

For more information about Carlos you can read his page on Wikipedia. A veteran of bands led by Art Blakey, Charles Mingus, Miles Davis and Freddie Hubbard, Carlos brought a wealth of experience with him when he came to Houston. He was patient with me, and enthusiastic about my playing.

The Latin Jazztet

By the time I was asked to join the Latin Jazztet, I had already worked my way through the jazz basics. I could play standard tunes and I was ready to do something at a higher level. I believe that God put me in Carlos’ path so that I could stretch my wings and fly.

Carlos made this flight possible for all of us in the Jazztet. He encouraged long solos with strong chromaticism and high intensity phrasing. Where other musical settings required me to tone it down and restrain my technique, Carlos empowered me to share with the audiences every ounce of what I had to give.

Maybe to non-musicians that may not sound like much. Look at the typical musician and how little of what we are capable of doing is ever used in our performances. Most of us believe in being over prepared for the gigs we play. Very little of what we do professionally represents much of a technical challenge to us. When we finally have the opportunity to perform with a band like the Jazztet, not only do we enjoy it more, but it also takes us to the next level.

I often compare the feeling of playing other gigs to being a race horse walking in a parade. That horse is ready, willing and able to gallup at top speeds, but that’s not his job in the parade. So those muscles go unflexed, almost twitching with the desire to run.

That’s how the gigs feel sometimes. But with the Jazztet, it was like Carlos was saying, “The parade is over, now give us your best.”

Original Tunes

It was also very nice to work with Carlos on his own original tunes. Carlos taught me how to approach writing tunes in a way that had structure, but allowed for the kind of freedom that the Jazztet had become known for.

I have to admit that I am now a Carlos Garnett fan. I have all of his CDs and he continues to inspire me through them even now, years after he moved to Panama. When I listen to his recordings, I see myself in the memory of our rehearsals. I remember his voice and his instructions to me and the rest of the band. I see clearly how our time together connected me to his musical life and his past.


Future Hope

I have told the other guys from The Jazztet that I hope for us to all work together again sometime in the future. I would love for us to perform again and maybe cut another side while he’s here. Or better yet, maybe we should all head down to Panama and work en su tierra.

Thank You Carlos

Thank you, Carlos, for pushing me to the next level in my playing and for being so supportive of me. I know we only worked together for a short time, but you inspired me to grow and strive for something better.

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