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Charnett Moffett: New Love (Motéma)

Review of the bassist/composer/vocalist's 17th album as a leader

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Cover of Charnett Moffett album New Love
Cover of Charnett Moffett album New Love

Charnett Moffett takes his responsibilities as a leader—and New Love is the 17th album putting him in that position—quite literally. Approaching his fretless electric bass as a lead instrument, and thereby freeing it up from its traditional supportive function, Moffett allows himself to go for broke. One way he does so on New Love, a collection of a dozen self-penned originals recorded in late 2019 with a small combo, is by ignoring genre limitations more or less completely.

Elements of funk and free, world, soul and more find their way into these tunes, then scramble to a point where it makes no sense to even try to slot them into any genre scheme. “Swinging in the Realms,” the opening track, approaches near-giddiness as Moffett and guitarist Jana Herzen (his wife and the co-founder of Motéma) play cat-and-mouse, while drummer Corey Garcia skitters madly in a noble effort to anticipate their moves. Herzen and Moffett also combine their scat-esque, experimental-ish vocals on the album’s final three songs (Moffett contributes a solo vocal on another, the title track), taking the recording out on a more exotic, enigmatic note than we’ve heard to that point.

Irwin Hall’s saxophones provide notable moments too, though in the end it’s always Moffett who commands the most avid attention—and for good reason. Not only is he a skillful, original stylist on his instrument, but he also refuses to let himself be restricted by what we think that instrument should be. There are more than a handful of times when, on tracks like “We Remember” and “Flying in the Air,” listeners can forget momentarily that it is, in fact, a bass guitar calling the shots. When we do remember again, what he’s producing on it seems all the more remarkable.

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Jeff Tamarkin

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Jeff Tamarkin is the former editor of Goldmine, CMJ, Relix, and Global Rhythm. As a writer he has contributed to the New York Daily News, JazzTimes, Boston Phoenix, Harp, Mojo, Newsday, Billboard, and many other publications. He is the author of the book Got a Revolution: The Turbulent Flight of Jefferson Airplane and has contributed to The Guinness Companion to Popular Music, All Music Guide, and several other encyclopedias. He has also served as a consultant to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, NARAS, National Geographic Online, and Music Club Records.