With the exception of John Medeski, there are aren’t a whole lot of Hammond B3 players as imaginative as Brian Charette. And even Medeski didn’t come up with the idea to put his B3 alongside a four-part horn section like Charette did a couple of years back. Charette follows up that the uncommonly exciting Music for Organ Sextette with the much more common organ-guitar-drums getup for Square One (March 18, 2014), his first for the well-regarded Posi-Tone label.
Scaling back his combo doesn’t necessarily equate to scaling back on ambitions, however. Charette is plenty talented enough to have modeled this record after Jimmy McGriff or Jack McDuff and it would have certainly gotten a warm reception from jazzbos. But the former Joni Mitchell and Lou Donaldson sideman just can’t settle for the easy route. That’s why any grease found on Square One is just one of many elements he pours into this record.
“Aaight!” has a groovy funky vibe alternating with swing. Charette plays it tough during the funky parts and his guitar player Yotam Silberstein plays it nice ‘n’ breezy during the swinging parts. Charette integrates harmony into rhythm for “Yei Fei,” with drummer Mark Ferber inserting complex wrinkles into the rhythm, but Ferber makes it seem easy. The quick-paced “Ten Bars for Eddie Harris” sizzles and bristling with highlights, like Silberstein’s fuzzy toned lead lines, Charette’s typical organ burns and the song coming to a standstill for Ferber’s showstopping, spirited drum solo.
Charette picks the sleeper cut “If” from Larry Young’s Unity, featuring tasty licks by Silberstein and Charette making plain that Young is a major influence of his. Charette’s own “Time Changes” is remindful of “If,” full of interesting chord and tempo changes. The one other cover is the early Meters tune “Ease Back,” where Silberstein’s clipped notes and psychedelic sound evoke that vintage Big Easy funk feel without mimicking it.
Though not credited, background synthesizer sounds (from producer Marc Free) can be heard on four of the tracks, an odd juxtaposition with the vintage vibe coming from an organ trio but Charette isn’t afraid to take chances. It works best on “A Fantasy,” a choice slice of stormy rock-soul fusion jazz played in 7/4 time.
Brian Charette goes back to Square One but he doesn’t land on the rote or mundane. This is bound to be one of the more adventurous, eccentric and — ultimately — satisfying organ trio releases of the year.