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Brian Charette Trio with Ed Cherry at The Turning Point Cafe


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Brian Charette Trio with Ed Cherry
The Turning Point Cafe
Piermont, NY
July 15, 2018

Eight selections into an eighty-minute set Brian Charette looked over at Ed Cherry and asked what kind of ballad he wanted to play. In an instant Cherry answered with his guitar, kicking off Duke Ellington's "In A Sentimental Mood." Without a moment's hesitation, Charette's organ and the drums of Jordan Young fell right into place. Whether genuinely spontaneous or a clever bit of stagecraft, this gambit was in keeping with the unit's soulful, coolly efficient character, a decidedly temperate way of approaching the music that separated them from the pack of organ trios.

Charette crafted a cohesive set out of Great American Songbook favorites, jazz standards, and a few funk tunes. There was nothing awkward or contrived about the admixture of Dave Brubeck's "In Your Own Sweet Way," Johnny Green's "Body and Soul," Juan Tizol's "Caravan," and James Brown's "Ain't It Funky Now." Despite the familiarity of these and several other songs, they sounded like tailor-made vehicles for the trio and, on two selections, guest tenor saxophonist John Richmond. To name one of the many signs of the group's capacity to fully inhabit the material, Charette's unpretentious, assured way with Brubeck's melody made it easy to forget all of the times it's indifferently played on one off gigs and at jam sessions.

A portion of the band's appeal could be traced to Charette's and Cherry's dissimilar styles as soloists. Charette was inclined to ease into an improvisation, shaping jaunty, forthright phrases, and gradually becoming more animated. In the midst of Arthur Schwartz's "You And The Night And The Music" he made a couple of small, nearly imperceptible gestures that stiffened the music's resolve. To his credit, even on lively tunes like Wes Montgomery's "Road Song" or Lalo Schifrin's "The Cat" the organist never settled for repetitious, crowd-pleasing runs or tumultuous climaxes. Moreover, Charette swung in a surefooted manner and remained mindful of the backbone of each piece even while executing long, rapid, intricate passages.

Cherry possessed the air of a craftsman, arranging his materials in slightly irregular ways that, in the aggregate, made perfect sense and briskly moved the work forward. During "Road Song," "In Your Own Sweet Way," and "You And The Night And the Music," he weighed groups of terse, two and three note remarks (sometimes rhyming, in other instances less obviously joined), agreeable melodies that never lasted very long, and chordal passages which often swiped against the beat, immediately followed by singles that landed squarely on it. Apart from the occasional slurry aside, every note and chord sounded out clearly. Cherry also injected brief, twanging shots into Charette's solos, fleetingly setting off sparks without impinging on the organist's chain of thought.

Confounding any expectations of the feverish pace of many classic renditions, during Ray Noble's "Cherokee," the set's highlight, Charette, Cherry and Young nailed down a delicious, slow-to-medium tempo—eliciting a "Nice groove!" response from someone in the audience. The patient, amiable clip denied the existence of all manner of negativity. Even when the trio blithely moved in and out of double time, the spur of the moment alteration didn't even come close to breaking the music's untroubled, reassuring spirit.

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