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Charnett Moffett: The Art of Improvisation

Francis Lo Kee By

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Charnett Moffett: The Art of Improvisation A fascinating recording, The Art of Improvisation is as mysterious as it is a showcase for the formidable bass playing skills of its leader Charnett Moffett; his playing on electric and acoustic basses has a grounded, vocal quality—he always seems to be singing through his instruments.

Even when he is playing a fusillade of notes (and Moffett does have fleet fingers), the feel of various folk musics (Asian, Middle Eastern, African, even Celtic) are invoked, as heard through both parts of "Enlightenment." "Part I" starts with a floating, meditative mood, building in speed and emotional intensity over a pedal tone. "Part II" becomes a duet of bass and drums, using the melodic materials of "Part I" in an approach similar to that of a sitar/tabla duet.

Moffett's bass again sings a duet with Tibetan vocalist Yunchen Lhamo on "Call for Peace," a striking track of such sincerity it begs for more. "Dream," another fascinating composition, features a poet's recitation over a sonic landscape that sounds as if it could have been recorded in the '60s or '70s—a cross between the Last Poets and music found at the Creative Music Studio. The title track, of course reminds listeners of Ornette Coleman's 1961 album, The Art of the Improvisers; Charnett, after all, is a contraction of Charles—as in drummer Charles Moffett, his father—and Ornette, Charles Moffett's boss circa 1965. And the bassist's version of the "Star Spangled Banner" convincingly revives the spirit of Hendrix's Woodstock version of the national anthem.

Moffett doesn't take the usual route of making a recording that's a concise collection of tunes. He stretches out on his basses more than any other bassist/bandleader dares to. And though Moffett can remind one of Jaco Pastorius, James Jamerson, Milt Hinton, Charlie Haden, Stanley Clarke or an Edgar Meyer—none would have made an album with this kind of directness.

Track Listing: We Pray; Moses; The Story; Dreams; Elements of Life; Call for Peace; The Awakening; Swing Rock; Enlightenment Part l; Enlightenment ll; The Art of Improvisation; Star Spangled Banner.

Personnel: Charnett Moffett: basses; Will Calhoun: drums Yungchen Lhamo: vocal; Scott Brown: piano; Pat Jones: guitar. Steve Barnes: guitar. Eric McPherson: drums. Charnette Max Moffett: drums. Robert Joseph Avalon: trumpet.

Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Motema Music | Style: Beyond Jazz


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