Any true solo album requires the artist to compensate for the components our ears expect to hear: A pianist, guitarist or saxophonist must create melody as well as rhythm sans rhythm section, but for a bassist the challenge to become the band is even greater. Charnett Moffett understands that his job here is to provide melodies and harmonies not usually required of him, all while maintaining the drive and pliancy that are his stock in trade, and he works hard to fill those roles on The Bridge. Several of these 20 tracks hover in the one- to two-minute range; only a few break four. Moffett’s goal isn’t to showboat but rather to be succinct, fluid and entertaining. He pulls it off in style: As difficult as it is to imagine, some of these solo bass nuggets are so melodically engaging they practically invite you to hum along.
That doesn’t mean Moffett dumbs it down—not even remotely so. From “Caravan,” the Ellington staple with which he opens the set, Moffett’s proficiency and finesse are at the fore: He’s all over the instrument, bustling and foraging, recasting the standard with near-symphonic fullness. His “Monk Medley” and pieces by Sting, Tony Williams, Charles Mingus, McCoy Tyner and Miles Davis sometimes only suggest the phantom instrumental parts yet manage to stay true to the writers’ particular compositional quirks. Both the Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby” and the insanely clever, minute-long pairing of “Joshua Fought the Battle of Jericho” with Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” are treated reverently, Moffett forgoing histrionics and keeping them recognizable.
Sometimes, though, it’s the Moffett originals that resonate most profoundly. “Swinging Etude” is a waterfall of disparate notes—Moffett is one fast bass player—but rather than dull the senses with excess, his choices fall into place and compel. And “Free Your Mind,” which seamlessly blends arco and pizzicato work, is sumptuous and otherworldly.