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Brian Charette: Alphabet City

Dan Bilawsky By

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Organist Brian Charette brings his A-game to Alphabet City. But who would expect anything else from this consummate artist? After delivering a covers-heavy program with two different trio lineups on Good Tipper (Posi-Tone, 2014), Charette returns here with an all-originals outing that finds him in the company of guitarist Will Bernard and drummer Rudy Royston.

Alphabet City, in some respects, is an ode to Charette's New York city home, haunts and habits. But that minimizes the scope and influences connected to this project. In truth, this album, like nearly everything else in Charette's discography, is about Charette's entire world, not a single section of a city. His early musical passions, vast experience(s), and general love of music—be it bop-based, bright, burbling, bizarre, or built with Eastern European influences—are all wrapped together in his work.

While these three musicians work well as a single unit, each has his own respective gifts to share. Charette's diversified approach to music-making manages to keep things fresh; Royston plays with a marriage of technique and taste, alternately delivering direct blows, worming his way into the heart of a groove, and playing around the edges of a piece; and Bernard straddles musical worlds, simultaneously pulling from jazz, soul, and funk bags. It's an odd combination in some respects, but it works.

There's modal music in odd time signatures ("Split Black"), ambling and carefree performances ("West Village"), and mysterious, Hungarian-influenced music to be heard here ("Hungarian Major"). Charette and company might be knee deep in bebop on one track ("East Village"), but the next number might go someplace completely different, as the trio explores some serious funk that questions the absence of a Fred Wesley figure in a James Brown biopic ("They Left Fred Out"). There are also intentionally edgy, alien, and fusion-based pursuits ("Not A Purist"), energetically swinging blues excursions ("The Vague Reply"), and gospel-tinged peace offerings to admire ("White Lies").

Given Charette's track record and the skills of the players involved, it should come as no surprise that Alphabet City is as good as it is.

Track Listing: East Village; They Left Fred Out; West Village; Not A Purist; Sharpie Moustache; Disco Nap; Hungarian Major; Avenue A; Detours; Split Black; White Lies; The Vague Reply.

Personnel: Brian Charette: organ; Will Bernard: guitar; Rudy Royston: drums.

Title: Alphabet City | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Posi-Tone Records

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