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Charnett Moffett - Treasure

Charnett Moffett -|- Treasure – [Motéma Music, 2010]

For musicians, compositions are precious reflections of the soul – aural snapshots of emotions, reflections and conceptions covering broad swaths of human expression and experience. Each offering allows the musician a new opportunity to communicate on varying wavelengths – conscious and subconscious, simple and complex, spiritual and intellectual. Over the course of a fascinating career that began at a very young age, the virtuosic Charnett Moffett has reached profound musical depths and expanded the possibilities of jazz composition and performance through his creative imagination using his instruments as his voice. His approach to music making and recording can be challenging and unorthodox. Yet the rewards for taking on those challenges are often awe-inspiring, revelatory – and can elevate mere songs to Treasure, the title of Charnett’s second project for Motéma Music and his eleventh as a leader.

Treasure offers a thematic yang to the yin of his critically acclaimed Motéma debut, The Art of Improvisation, which came out in 2009. While Treasure shares the eclecticism and some of the Asian and Middle Eastern influences of The Art of Improvisation, the newer release palpably concentrates an emphasis on the swing and pulse that has earned Moffett standing ovations throughout his career as one of the most highly regarded bassists in jazz.

Moffett uses a three-pointed musical arsenal to express his distinct musicality on Treasure: his upright acoustic bass, his fretless electric bass and his electric piccolo bass. Each has its own sonic spectrum which he further expands through his virtuosic bow-tapping and hand plucking techniques, and through the use of a select bag of electronic tricks which allow his boundless imagination to find just the right tone and feeling for each bass in each song. His unorthodox and emotionally charged approach to jazz has earned Moffett high praise from fans and critics alike. “Charnett Moffett is an undisputed bass champion, a musician’s musician,” remarked Audiophile Audition Magazine. “His playing on electric and acoustic basses has a grounded, vocal quality,” was the word from All About Jazz, while Details Magazine, in a rare jazz review commented “One of jazz’s top instrumentalists, Charnett Moffett is a hypnotic performer … [his] acidy version of “The Star Spangled Banner would have made Jimi Hendrix weep.” In fact Moffett has built a career on using the bass in a much wider capacity than virtually any other bassist in jazz. “I remember as a youngster playing improvised solo bass for family and friends. This allowed me to express my creative abilities using the bass as a lead instrument from early on,” Charnett explains. “It wasn’t until I got older that I realized the bass was primarily a support instrument! Not knowing this allowed me to develop my voice as a bassist more fully than I might have otherwise.”

On Treasure, Charnett explores both the inner and outer limits of jazz composition, through various formats: solo and duo works that benefit from his rhythmic dexterity and melodic strength on the upright bass; several iterations of the traditional piano, bass, drums trio format; as well as larger ensemble works which reveal the depth and sophistication of his imagination as they gracefully unfold into cinematic sonic-landscapes with colorful horn sections and various ethnic instruments from India, the far east and Australia. The resulting all original set offers perhaps the most authentic and impassioned revelation of Moffett’s compositional vision to date.

“My music is personal, and sometimes crosses genres but it is not made with an elite audience in mind,” Charnett insists. “It’s for everybody. I make sounds in a manner that a layman can appreciate. There is an element of intense freedom in my music that, to me, is one of the most important elements of jazz.”

Treasure opens with “Swing Street” – a groove-jazz anthem grounded by Moffett’s solid pulse on upright bass which underscores a trancelike ‘trialogue’ between his overdubbed fretless electric bass (which carries the melody,) a middle-eastern influenced bass clarinet line played by label-mate Oran Etkin and the fleet fingered piano improvisations of Casamir Liberski, an impressive new young lion on the scene that makes his debut here.

Up next is “The Celebration,” a cinematic orchestral waltz, which taps Moffett’s strengths both as leader and composer. The combined groove power of drummer Rodney Holmes, tablist Max Moffett, pianist Liberski and bassist Moffett make up a luxurious rhythmic bed for guitar icon Stanley Jordan (a long-time Moffett collaborator) to stretch out while curling imaginative guitar riffs around the infectious melody line. A charismatic brass section featuring RJ Avallone on trumpet and Irwin Hall on tenor saxophone does its fair share along with Jordan to build an exciting emotional climax into this epic work.

“The Things of Swing” takes off next in toe-tapping style with a snare-brushed, feel good vibe. The arrangement retains Jordan on guitar, drops the brass and brings back Oran Etkin on bass clarinet as well as Motéma label founder Jana Herzen on didgeridoo, the long funnel-like horn of the Australian Aborigine. The melody is infectious, and the groove cuts deep into the swing pocket, making this a likely favorite on the disc for the traditional jazz enthusiast.

The trajectory of the first three songs points clearly to the disc’s underlying theme. “Ellington said it best,” remarks the bassist. “It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing. There is swing in every kind of music, it’s just not always a major focal point. ‘Swing’ is the ‘feel’ that allows one to be able to groove. On Treasure, I wanted to show that whether the bass is walking in 4/4, grooving in ¾, playing with harmonics or being totally free, the swing is always there in its many diverse forms and colors.”

“Say La,” returns to the fretless and upright basses, along with tenor man Irwin Hall and the voices of Angela Moffett (playing tambura and voicing the opening words) and Amareia Moffett, who makes her recording debut. Four tracks later is the companion piece “Say La La,” which unfolds like a soundtrack for ascension on which Charnett leads an ethereal string quartet with Kugo harpist Tomoko Sugawara (also a fellow Motéma artist), sitar player Anjana Roy and Angela Moffett on tambura.

Sandwiched between the two “Say Las” is the outrageous freeness of “Beam Me Up” which reunites the bassist with drummer Denardo Coleman. The high fire chemistry between Moffett and Coleman (son of avant-garde jazz pioneer Ornette Coleman), is born of their many years of playing together in Ornette’s band. “I’ve known Denardo literally forever,” says the bassist, who was named in part for the great sax player, and who came up on Coleman’s ‘Harmolodic Method’ in which every member of the ensemble leads and follows simultaneously and all twelve notes are considered equal.

The ultra virtuosity of “Beam Me Up” cascades into the open trio cushion of “Praise” -a heartfelt ballad in which Moffett’s bass ‘sings’ the melody and is backed by Casimir Liberski and Rodney Holmes’s empathic accompaniment. The solo upright bass piece “Country Blues” and the completely unorthodox country-jazz instrumental “Down Up Blues” bring two more sides of Charnett’s musical personality to the Treasure table and lead up to the contemplative closers, “Sound Healing I” & “Sound Healing II.”

Each song in the Treasure chest holds a key to Moffett’s concept. “I wanted to create through-lines that trigger the brain to listen to the album as one entire piece,” Charnett states. A spiritual side of the ‘Treasure’ theme is further expressed in Charnett’s consistent return to family. “It’s amazing to make music with artists who are family” explains Moffett, whose own career began at age seven in the Moffett Family Band, led by his father, Charles Moffett, known for his innovative drumming with Ornette Coleman in the 1960’s. “Max is a great drummer who seems to channel his grandfather more with every passing year. And I am pleased to introduce Amareia on this album. The purity of her voice had simply the perfect sound to express the idea behind “Say La.” Also, Angela plays tambura on several songs which provides a steady classical Indian raga sound which frees the bass space up so I can go beyond it’s normal function. It’s a real honor to be able to have my family join me in this art form.”

Charnett concludes, “It’s all about expressing the truth of how you feel. Each player, each piece is a Treasure. The music must flow naturally from an artist in order for the true creativity of an artist to be shared at the exact moment in time. I am looking forward to continuing this artistic process. It was a pleasure making Treasure!”

For a peak at the fun, please view The Making of Treasure, a documentary directed and narrated by Charnett that is included as enhanced content on the CD.

Treasure will also be released this summer by King Records in Japan and by Membran International in the EU.

CHARNETT MOFFETT · Treasure · Motéma Music ·
Release Date: June 8, 2010


With eleven CDs as a leader, over 200 recordings as a sideman and countless performances at jazz venues around the world, Charnett Moffett has earned a reputation as one of the most virtuosic, dependable and innovative musicians in jazz. In addition to his twenty-five years with the Manhattan Jazz Quintet, Charnett has performed and recorded with an impressive resume of greats that include Art Blakey, Dizzy Gillespie, Joe Henderson, Herbie Hancock, Pharoah Sanders, McCoy Tyner, Sonny Sharrock, Frank Lowe, Ellis Marsalis, Wallace Roney, Dianne Reeves, Kenny Kirkland, David Sanchez, Babatunde Lea, Arturo Sandoval, Alex Bugnon, Kevin Eubanks, David Sanborn, Harry Connick, Jr. and most recently has been on tour with vocal sensation, Melody Gardot.

Born on June 10, 1967, he was named after both his father Charles Moffett and his musical godfather, jazz icon Ornette Coleman (with whom Charles served as drummer from 1965-1967 and with whom Charnett has played with off through his career.) Charnett first began playing and recording at the age of seven. “My first teacher was my dad,” explains the bassist. “My first instrument was drums, then trumpet, and by age eight, I found myself playing the bass with the Moffett Family Band on a tour in the Far East. The sounds I heard there deeply influenced me.” His virtuosic approach developed from his unique training. “When I got to the bass, my dad didn’t start me on scales. My old man said, ‘Here are the low notes and here are the high notes – see what you can do with them.’ That allowed me to immediately enjoy the quality of all the sounds, and that goodness triggered endorphins that affected my approach to music instead of starting out bogged down in restrictions and mathematics. That I started as a drummer and then on trumpet makes me hear melodic music differently. When I play piccolo bass, I’m thinking more like a trumpeter, upright bass leads me to a traditional role for bass, and fretless moves me more toward the center.” Charnett attended Fiorello H. La Guardia High School for the Music and Arts in New York City and later studied at Mannes College of Music and the Juilliard School of Music until he was pulled out of school at age 15 to tour with Wynton Marsalis.

In 1983, Charnett played on saxophonist Branford Marsalis’ debut as a leader, Scenes in the City, and the following year he joined trumpeter Wynton Marsalis’ quintet, appearing on 1985’s acclaimed Black Codes (From the Underground). During the ’80s, he also worked with Stanley Jordan, appearing on the innovative guitarist’s best-selling 1985 Blue Note debut, Magic Touch, as well as two Blue Note albums with the late, great legendary drummer Tony Williams’ quintet: 1987’s Civilization and 1988’s Angel Street. In 1987, Moffett signed with Blue Note Records and debuted as a leader that year with his first of three albums for Blue Note, Beauty Within, which featured his father Charles Moffett on drums, older brothers Codaryl Moffett on drums and Mondre Moffett on trumpet, Kenny Garrett on alto saxophone, and Stanley Jordan on guitar.

In 1993, Charnett recorded Rhythm & Blood for Sweet Basil’s Apollon Records. A savvy mix of jazz and pop, it placed high on the music charts in Japan. Moffett later scored artistic triumphs on the Evidence label with 1994’s Planet Home (featured his audacious, electronically enhanced rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” in tribute to Jimi Hendrix’s Woodstock showstopper) and 1997’s Still Life featuring keyboardist Rachel Z and drummer Cindy Blackman. In 1996, Moffett appeared on two simultaneous releases by Ornette Coleman’s Sound Museum — Hidden Man and Three Women. Another 1997 recording, Acoustic Trio for Teichiku Records, showcased Charnett’s innovative acoustic bass playing. Three other ’90s recordings for the Sweet Basil/Evidence label were done under the collective name of General Music Project (with saxophonist Kenny Garrett, pianists Geri Allen and Cyrus Chestnut, and his father Charles Moffett Sr., who passed away before the group could tour together). Another Charnett recording from 1995, Moffett & Sons, is collaboration with his father. In 2001, Charnett released a potent tribute to the late Jaco Pastorius titled Mr. P, a trio recording with pianist Mulgrew Miller and drummer Louis Hayes. He has also performed on various movie soundtracks, including acclaimed ensemble cast pictures “Glengarry Glen Ross” (1992) and “The Visit” (2001), and was a featured soloist for “The Score” (starring Robert DeNiro and Marlon Brando).

..:: Source: DL Media ::..