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Charnett Moffett

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(Piadrum; US: 11 Apr 2006; UK: Available as import)

Listeners looking for more jazz than there was on Moffett’s previous set can certainly find it on this approachable but serious CD.  This is no complaint about the preceding collection, meant to be not jazz, but almost a family religious service, with music of such high class as is due the Man Upstairs.


For sustained jazz performances by the super-bass of Moffett, I suppose the places to go are still recordings of his work as a sideman, obviously with McCoy Tyner, and perhaps especially video footage of live gigs. Presumably, Moffett simply doesn’t regard himself—at least as yet—a musical creator on the same scale as his sometimes boss.


He doesn’t, however, stint himself, or the listener, in having Stephen Scott as pianist on so much of this basically piano-bass-drums trio set with augmentations. Scott’s gifts are plain, and reviews should mention when a pianist has a sound of his or her own.  We have to wait for this through Moffett’s fearsome strumming at the start, but “G.E.M.” soon lets us hear Moffett in support of a strong-swinging pianist. “Icon Blues” begins with Eric McPherson’s brushes, and then with that lovely drummer collaborating, there’s more bass for the Charnettophil: lovely theme, happy enough to let Scott’s alternation of synthesizer and piano passages be fun. Multi-tracking himself on piccolo bass, fretless bass, and acoustic bass, Charnett displays Caribbean ambitions on “PTL”, Scott doing ska-cum-reggae organ work before the big bass takes a solo with McPherson’s brushwork. Monty Alexander, eat your ackees! “Kings and Queens” has ambitions only in the direction of the stunning piano trio performance. “Coral” is a miniature for unaccompanied bass, with a melody like that of an 18th century operatic aria—for bass voice.  There is some lovely strumming-slapping of bass fiddle.


On “Free Raga”, Charnett seems to be asking some guitarist with sitar ambitions to eat his chuppatty out. Amit Shamir is on drums, and turns up again on “Jubilant”, which is more Indo-Jazz Fusions with Maria Sartori-Spencer delivering a hearty vocalise or indo-scat, and Aaron Spencer playing soprano saxophone. Charnett plays tribute to the blessed Pastorius on fretless bass, and hangs on to the same axe with happy result on “Rain Drops”, a trio number on which Scott generates electronic atmospheric swirls, as well as playing piano. On “Triumph”, the pianist goes sanctified Caribbean, shows knowledge of Bach, and swings a brilliant clean line over the empathic teamwork of Charnett-Eric bass-drums. He has a nice lean sound, and when he goes into the trendier sort of sub-Tyner passage-work, he sometimes achieves a joyous parody, sometimes selecting very telling lines. “Mr. O.C.” brings back the Pastorius-bass, with echo and introduced by more weather machine from a pianist able to keep company with his acoustic instrument long enough to add things. “Wishful Thinking” is piano trio with big acoustic bass again, nice piano, and some Bach piano over bass, before Charnett’s bow turns the same bull fiddle briefly oriental. Have the items discussed in this paragraph been a suite, and is “Happy Dreams” (echochambered fretless bass with background electronics) still a part of it? McPherson’s essential regardless, and Scott makes a stunning little entry among all the rubber-burning of the bouncing fretless bass.


And what about the acoustic bass performance with curious clicking noises, called “Internet”, but starting again in India, and proceeding to conjure a nice jazz theme with enough demonstration of Charnett’s prowess and its musicality to please potential listeners amazed by his doings with Tyner and Co.  “Universal March” brings back the soprano player, has a mysterious J.S. (Janet Shih?) on piano, and Charnett on piccolo bass. Everybody gets together for a conclusion to the Indo-Bach and whatever else the programme has gone into, Charnett doing a sort of blues guitarist thing at the beginning and in the end making this ensemble piece more telling.


Encores seem to start thereafter, Charnett repeatedly speech-singing with a deep resonance, like the late bassist-vocalist Major Holley, the words “enjoy your life”, with suggestions beyond mere hedonism. Well, he is a religious guy. The track numbered B2 is (deliberately, I hope) ghastly (as if “Enjoy Your Life” wasn’t banal enough!). Echoing a pretty bad BBC play set in Scotland and guest-starring Harvey Keitel, Charnett—like the guitarist in the working men’s club in that play—does “Star Spangled Banner”... but in, I presume, deliberate parody of Jimi Hendrix (and with sawing noises with strings on the fretboard which suggest he has an extra hand or two as well). “RAS” is the last title, with Scott Brown on piano, Charnett playing bass guitar and singing. I hope he’s joking, but the track’s so bad I won’t listen to it again: this is something which I cannot say about the 14 items which I do recommend are listened to.  This is neither a dull, nor a predictable record.

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