Charnett Moffett – Treasure – Motéma MTM-43, 53:24 (with enhanced video content) ****1/2:
(Charnett Moffett – acoustic and electric bass, piccolo electric bass, producer; Casimir Liberski – piano; Denardo Coleman – drums (tracks 1 and 5); Rodney Holms – drums (tracks 2-4 and 6); Max Moffett – drums (track 8), tablas; Stanley Jordan – guitar (tracks 2 and 3); Angela Moffett – tamboura, vocals (track 4); Oran Etkin – bass clarinet (tracks 1, 3 and 5); RJ Avallone – trumpet (track 2); Irwin Hall – tenor saxophone (track 2); Anjana Roy – sitar (tracks 4 and 9); Amareia Moffett – vocals (track 4); Tomoko Sugawara – Kugo harp (track 9); Jana Herzen – didgeridoo (track 8))
The freedom to follow an aesthetic impulse, or choose one’s own path, is what keeps jazz a vital art form. That philosophy is clearly delineated on bassist Charnett Moffett’s new venture, Treasure, the sequel to his Motéma label debut, The Art of Improvisation. On that 2009 album Moffett shared his eclectic vision of melding rock, jazz, fusion and world music elements. On Treasure, Moffett downplays the disparate for 12 tracks that concentrate on swing and pulse.
Anyone familiar with Moffett’s previous outings knows he makes use of different basses – here he utilizes acoustic, electric and electric piccolo basses – with an extensive aptitude and in the belief that any sound can be equal in any composition. On Treasure Moffett’s variations alternate from solo bass excursions to octet configurations and arrangements that implement traditional jazz instruments such as trumpet, drums and piano as well as exotic devices like sitar, didgeridoo and tamboura.
Moffett works with a gifted gathering. Through the 53-minute long program are contributions from drummer Denardo Coleman (Ornette Coleman’s son), guitarist Stanley Jordan, Motéma label president Jana Herzen on didgeridoo and others: 14 musicians in total.
Grooving, slightly moody opener “Swing Street” shows Moffett’s intention quite well. Moffett pushes the tune forward on his upright bass along with overdubbed fretless electric bass, which drives the melody. The two basses, in turn, form a triple conversation with Oran Etkin’s Middle East-flavored bass clarinet, while Casimir Liberski, a young talent who makes his debut here, layers in filigreed piano lines.
Longtime collaborator Stanley Jordan joins on another groove-laden conception, the lengthy “The Celebration,” which has a film-like quality due to a slow dramatic design moored by a repeating bass line. Max Moffett’s infectious tablas and Angela Moffett’s tamboura provide an India-laced undercurrent. Trumpeter RJ Avallone takes an ascending solo about midway through, proceeded by Irwin Hall’s soulful tenor sax ornamentation. Jordan is also heard to very fine efficacy on the aptly named “The Thing of Swing,” which displays Jordan’s sincere pre-bop mannerism with just a touch of fusion, Rodney Holms’ in the pocket drum snare and brush work and Liberski’s crisp keyboard.
The record’s most outrageous moment is the freeform “Beam Me Up,” a maniacal duet between Moffett, who uses a discordant fretless electric bass and effects pedals, and drummer Denardo Coleman. The cut is a knockout example of Moffett’s connection to Ornette Coleman and Coleman’s harmolodic theory of spontaneous, collective interaction. In a satisfying bit of contrast is lyrical ballad “Praise,” which is a beautiful trio outing, and country-jazz hybrid “Down Up Blues,” with Herzen’s subtle didgeridoo.
Bass aficionados will want to hear Moffett’s one-person showcases: he reveals his upright bass expertise on lightly-ruralized “Country Blues” and arco is employed on the classical-music tinted title track.
A 16-minute Moffett-narrated, behind-the-scenes mini-documentary, “The Making of Treasure,” is added as an enhanced video viewable on computers: Moffett explains the album’s concept, the application of specific instruments and information on particular tunes. It’s a must-see for those with a desire to dig deeper into Moffett’s viewpoints and outlook.
1. Swing Street
2. The Celebration
3. The Thing of Swing
4. Say La
5. Beam Me Up
7. Country Blues
8. Down Up Blues
9. Say La La
11. Sound Healing I
12. Sound Healing II
— Doug Simpson