Organist Brian Charette gets back to basics on Square One with a return to the standard organ trio format of his first few records, albeit with a twist. Guitarist Yotam Silberstein and drummer Mark Ferber are along for the ride and totally aligned with his relatively straightforward designs for the session.
Eleven tracks comprise a program that would fit comfortably onto the temporal confines of an LP. That calculated brevity works to the trio’s advantage with none of the pieces showing signs of bloat or diffusiveness, although it’s quickly evident that most of them would work well as vehicles for extended jamming in a concert setting.
“Aiight” opens on an oleaginous groove with Charette flipping the flute switch on his console halfway through and going for a stuttering, hollow tone reminiscent of vintage Art Neville. The Meters feel is even more pervasive on a killer cover of “Ease Back” as Charette reclines on a string of signature licks and Silberstein and Ferber furnish a fertile funk rhythm at his flanks. A lively rendering of Joe Henderson’s “If” brings the organist’s affinity for Blue Note-era Larry Young into bold relief as he maps the tune’s slippery modal structure and loose comping from Silberstein segues smoothly into clean single notes for a solo.
“People on Trains” is the first of several pieces to include synth shadings around the edges, with varying degrees of success. “True Love” also proves slightly problematic as it mires in drowsy sentiment, but picks up near the end as Charette changes settings to a swelling church organ sound. Balancing out these near misses are the tracks that constitute the album’s second half, starting with the brisk, bop-inflected “Time Changes.” “A Fantasy” pivots on a steady march cadence by Ferber and swirling chromatics from Charette laced with electronic accents. Organ and guitar trace increasingly constrictive concentric circles culminating in a near-explosive finale.
Funk factors into “Yei Fei,” the sort tempered with strong fusion impulses – particularly in the simmering interludes for solos from Silberstein and Charette. Those inclinations find an even more receptive outlet through “Things You Don’t Mean” as the players dissect another spiraling groove seasoned by colorful, if intrusive, synth washes. “Ten Bars for Eddie Harris” salutes another kindred soul in the named saxophonist and signs the session off with a propulsive period of controlled chaos and a synth-buttressed finish.
Over the past several years, Charette’s surname has become increasingly synonymous with creative activity in a range of settings not common to his instrument, from solo to sextet and in between. While the inclusion of electronics is an acquired taste, this economical date is still an enjoyable reminder that he works with just as much fire in familiar surroundings, particularly when the company is of the quality on hand.