Organ aficionados dismiss Brian Charette at their own disservice. With a Positone label contract in his pocket he’s stepped up his fecundity over the past year and turned out a string of albums that refuse to cow to critics that consider the instrument gauche or played out. Lesser hands accorded such liberal access to the avenues of album production would likely risk a tapering in quality to keep up. Charette’s kept his success record clean, balancing creative ideational execution with a conspicuous mindfulness aimed at fun.
The catalyst for Once & Future is at once unexpectedly self-referential and more broadly historical. At an earlier session Charette happened upon a copy of his own book 101 Hammond B3 Tips on the studio instrument and consequently started pondering the pantheon of players influential to his development. Fourteen pieces pay homage to these eclectic electric forefathers with three coming from Charette’s own design. Guitarist Will Bernard and drummer Steve Fidyk both show themselves game at exploring the guiding conceit of the date to the hilt.
The program starts orthodoxly enough with Fats Waller and the nascent organ inroad “Jitterbug Waltz” lathered here with a heaping helping of swollen, suspirating pedal sustain. Initial predictability gets upended as Charette vaults to the other end of the stylistic organ spectrum with Larry Young’s “Tyrone”, juggling interlocking Latin and funk components while deferring to Bernard for first solo honors. Barely a quarter century separates the two compositions, but each is of seismic importance in measuring the evolution of the instrument’s importance in jazz.
Charette’s “Latin from Manhattan” intentionally matches the formidable kitsch quotient of its title with a syrupy string of fills and a light samba beat. Bernard and Fidyk recline into their roles amiably unperturbed by the lounge-scented surroundings. Freddie Roach’s “Da Bug” works over a rolling call-and-response boogaloo rhythm while Jack McDuff’s “Hot Barbecue”, a Harlem club staple from the Hammond Sixties heyday, gets its well-deserved due with declamatory titular band refrain intact.
Back-to-back burning renditions of Bud Powell’s “Dance of the Infidels” and Woody Shaw’s “Zoltan” signal another course change to more modern fare. Charette flips a switch and hits the angular, staggered theme of the former with a tumescent knife-edged tone that almost eclipses Bernard’s careful comping. The latter tune gives Fidyk the chance to share his press roll and cymbal accent expertise in tandem with the leader’s aggressive to nal swells and spirals. James Brown, Jimmy Smith and Wes Montgomery comprise the album’s compositional final stretch alongside a few more originals. Charette’s win column remains uncompromised throughout.
Derek Taylor – Dusted In Exile