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Charnett Moffett: Bright New Day (Motéma)

A review of the latest album from the veteran bassist

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Charnett Moffett, Bright New Day
The cover of Bright New Day by Charnett Moffett

Bassist Charnett Moffett has a catalog of solo recordings dating back 32 years, yet he may be best known for his touring and recording with guitarist Stanley Jordan. Such is the reality for rhythm instrumentalists, even ones whose recording credits include Wynton Marsalis, Branford Marsalis, and Ornette Coleman. On his latest release, Moffett—who can impressively play every variety of acoustic and electric bass—plays only a fretless electric instrument, which he utilizes to create a unique mix of jazz, folk, and chamber music with keyboardist Brian Jackson, violinist Scott Tixier, drummer Mark Whitfield, Jr., and guitarist/vocalist (and Motéma founder and president) Jana Herzen.

When Jackson sticks to piano rather than synthesizers, as on the opener “Holy Spirit,” the disc evokes disparate European classical and acoustic Americana themes thanks to Moffett’s upright-like tones, the unplugged nature of Tixier and Whitfield’s instruments, and the sparse accompaniment of Herzen on a semi-hollowbody acoustic/electric guitar. On the subsequent “Free the Slaves,” Moffett’s funk bass line, Stanley Clarke-inspired solo, and chanted vocals help create a very different atmosphere. It’s a recurring pattern. The third track is the lone non-Moffett composition, Herzen’s “Precious Air,” which straddles pop and folk styles via her breathy lead vocal.

“O My God Elohim” adds elements of gospel and Irish music, thanks to the 6/8-timed cadence of Moffett and Whitfield and dancing solos of Tixier. The disc only detours when Herzen becomes overly dissonant, but such moments are few and far between. The disc ends with the Mahavishnu Orchestra-inspired “Netting” and the title track, an anthemic piece that rides the ascending arpeggios of Tixier and Moffett.

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