Brian Charette: Once & Future

A couple of years ago, organist Brian Charette published the well-regarded instruction book 101 Hammond B-3 Tips: Stuff All the Pros Know and Use. Once & Future, his newest album release on Posi-Tone, wasn’t planned as a companion piece, but it could serve as one. Returning to the trio format he’s long favored, Charette, along with guitarist Will Bernard and drummer Steve Fidyk, serves up a broad sampling of B-3 stylings, paying tribute to some of his own favorite players along the way.

Eleven of the 14 tracks here are covers, Charette dipping into the catalogs of several Hammond organ progenitors. Jack McDuff’s summery “Hot Barbeque” serves as a showcase for both Charette and Bernard, who proves an ideal foil for the organist throughout the session. Woody Shaw’s “Zoltan,” made famous by Larry Young on his Unity album, kicks the pace up a notch, while Jimmy Smith’s “Mellow Mood” takes it back down, living up to its title, easygoing and quixotic.

Fidyk is a valuable third here behind the kit; he knows when to keep his touch light (the Gordon-Warren blues staple “At Last”) and when to push hard—exactly what he does on James Brown’s “Ain’t It Funky Now,” from a 1970 album that featured several instrumentals, some with JB himself playing organ. From the same era, Wes Montgomery’s “Road Song” glides smoothly, a samba beat at its core.

But it’s some of the more surprising choices—a breakneck reading of Bud Powell’s “Dance of the Infidels” and the spunky Fats Waller opener, “Jitterbug Waltz” (yes, he also played organ)—that allow Charette to achieve his dual goal of taking the Hammond out of its comfort zone while acknowledging its storied role. And his original compositions, particularly “Falling Fourth” and the set-closing “Blues for 96,” could easily pass for classics of the genre.

Originally Published