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Paco Charlin: Bass Frequency

Ken Kase By

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There was a time when the structure and economics of the record business enabled jazz musicians to record a lot more frequently than they do today, allowing listeners to chart their artistic development (or lack of it) over relatively short passages of time. By contrast, the globalised imperatives of today's music industry typically force musicians into a release schedule that mirrors big budget pop records—that is, one release every two or three years.

But that doesn't matter if you're Spanish bassist Paco Charlin and you own your own record label. Charlin, longtime bassist in pianist Abe Rabade's trio and itinerant musician on the growing Spanish jazz scene, has released three albums recorded over a handful of sessions in the summer of 2005. On all three discs, Charlin is joined by three American musicians: alto saxophonist Jaleel Shaw, drummer Donald Edwards and, excepting the Jazz Frequency Group disc, guitarist Jonathan Kreisberg.

The Ultimate Jazz Earth-tet and The Ultimate Jazz Earth-tet II consist entirely of Charlin's original compositions, while Jazz Frequency Group features interpretations of jazz standards. Each of the albums makes for fascinating listening, offering striking arrangements and wonderfully creative improvisations—and an unwavering sense of fun and adventure.

Paco Charlin
The Ultimate Jazz Earth-tet
Free Code Jazz Records

This first disc opens with "Difrok", an aggressive performance that establishes the band's edgy yet accessible approach. The tune's erratic, unpredictable melody line creates a sense of deliberate unease, which is enhanced by Kreisberg's deft dirtiness and Shaw's angular, restless reaction to the changes.

"Waltz of Souls" continues the journey into a dark place, at a slower tempo and with a swaggering looseness that underscores its haunting theme. "2K2" and "Fli-Fla" are playful up-tempo swingers. Shaw's solo on the latter is especially potent, as he stretches out with a series of rhythmic bursts driven on by the rhythm section. Charlin's accomplished improvising skills are vividly showcased on two bass solos, "Tale Of A Child" and "Improlography." "Suihy Kebo," a mid-tempo ballad, has a delightfully pretty melody, and "JVP" demonstrates that the quartet's vocabulary includes sensitivity and a sense of restraint.

Paco Charlin
The Ultimate Jazz Earth-tet II
Free Code Jazz Records

If anything, Earth-tet II is a little wilder than the previous disc, retaining its best qualities while adding even more rhythmic and harmonic juice to the mix. The music swings with wild abandon from start to finish. "2f," "Dibuke" and "Next One" find Edwards, who's loosely tethered on first album, totally off the leash, displaying to an even greater degree a free-flowing, assertive affinity for syncopation and sudden time shifts—at levels reminiscent of Tony Williams at the top of his game. Shaw and Kreisberg once again provide an ample supply of dexterity and inventiveness.

A live version of "Waltz Of Souls" makes for an interesting comparison to the studio version on the previous disc, taking the tune to the outer fringes with a deft combination of abandon and control. The unaccompanied "Bluesology" and "Bassology" further the case for Charlin as a technical wizard blessed with a thoughtful soul.

Paco Charlin
Jazz Frequency Group
Free Code Jazz Records

Considering the wealth of material recorded during these sessions, Jazz Frequency Group is aptly titled. This time, the quartet is pared down to a trio by the exclusion of Kreisberg, and strolling solos rule the day on a collection of jazz standards. Shaw sounds as though he's having a blast on "Airegin," navigating the freedom of the chordless trio with a sense of fun and freedom. The trio's slowed down version of Coltrane's "Countdown" lights up the beauty and delicacy of the melody. Another Coltrane classic, "Afro Blue," serves as a great platform for Shaw's melodic inventiveness, while "I Could Write A Book" is a fun and easy-going performance of an old warhorse that should bring a smile to the most jaded face.

As with the other albums, Charlin delivers two bass solos, on Charlie Parker's "Diverse" and "Au Privave." The latter resonates with Jaco Pastorius' celebrated electric version of Parker's "Donna Lee," and is an appropriate finale to three albums of sustained productivity, energy and invention.

Tracks and Personnel

The Ultimate Jazz Earth-tet

Tracks: Difrok; Waltz Of Souls; 2k2; Tale Of A Child; Suihy Kebo; Fli-Fla; JVP; New Code; Improlography .

Personnel: Jaleel Shaw: alto saxophone; Jonathan Kreisberg: guitar; Paco Charlin: double bass; Donald Edwards: drums.

The Ultimate Jazz Earth-tet II

Tracks: 2f; Lidhu; Dibuke; Bluesology; Next One; Hilagocism; Waltz Of Souls (live version); Bassology.

Personnel: Jaleel Shaw: alto saxophone; Jonathan Kreisberg: guitar; Paco Charlin: double bass; Donald Edwards: drums.

Jazz Frequency Group

Tracks: Airegin; I Could Write A Book; Afro Blue; Diverse; Countdown; We'll Be together Again; Au Privave.

Personnel: Jaleel Shaw: alto saxophone; Paco Charlin: double bass; Donald Edwards: drums.


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