While there've been a few exceptions, many jazz organ-based recordings deliver the same old grind of not deviating too far from the Jimmy Smith or Charles Earland grease and grits format. But not in the case of Brian Charette's Music for Organ Sextette , a release that balances harmonically complex ideas with catchy melodies.
The Grammy nominated artist has worked with names from Chaka Khan to Joni Mitchell, is active in New York and has released a number of recordings, but what sets this release apart from the rest is Charette's open musicality and execution with a tight, reed-based sextet.
The first thing that's noticed is the organist's stylistic imprint a Larry Young-like vibe that's tempered with technique and lyricism. Charette's playing not only swings but also contains a certain quirkiness that's very cool on "Computer Games," as it freely moves through a range of the B3's harmonics. Then there's the way the horns are arranged (flute, alto and tenor sax, and baritone), with brief solos dealt in good force by consummate reed players that include the likes of Joel Frahm.
Charette's writing leaves room for both humor and austerity in "Fugue for Katheleen Anne/Ex Girlfriend Variations," a piece with classical and swing elements, while "Prayer For An Agnostic" contains horns that testify with proud solos as the organ croons out a lovely hymnal flavored melody. Some reggae-skanking surfaces in "The Elvira Pacifier" but the crème-de-la- crème joint is "Mode For Sean Wayland." With a nod to another New York pianist, Australian expat Sean Wayland, it contains harmonic techniques from French composer/organist Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992) and nasty reed playing à la Eric Dolphy from flautist Jay Collins and versatile saxophonist John Ellis on baritone.
There's also a nod to jam band groupies in "Tambourine," with some N'awlins street dancing thrown in for good measure, showing that Charette's unusual sextet can get the party started in a variety of ways. In the end, Music for Organ Sextette circumvents the norm and that's a very cool thing.
Computer God; Fugue for Katheleen Anne/Ex Girlfriend Variations; Risk; The Elvira Pacifier; Equal Opportunity; Prayer For An Agnostic; Late Night TV; French Birds; Mode For Sean Wayland; Tambourine.
Brian Charette: organ; Jochen Rueckert: drums; Jay Collins: flute; Mike DiRubbo: alto saxophone; Joel Frahm: tenor saxophone; John Ellis: bass clarinet.
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