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The realm of the Hammond B3 organ has never been a crowded field and it has remained so even today. However, where once you might have only found records of Larry Young, Jimmy Smith and Joey DeFrancesco in online and bricks and mortar stores, two more names are creating quite the storm in the realm today: one of them is Vanessa Rodrigues, the Toronto-based Brasilian and the American, Brian Charette. The latter once displayed a rather puzzling sobriety when I once heard him, but here, on this outstanding Posi-Tone recording, Once & Future all reservations are swept aside. How memorably he responds to this traditional and contemporary repertoire; to the elusive fragrance and intricacy that can leave your imagination haunted by such a distinctive idiom. And whether you note his special lyrical warmth in his own work or wonder at his unfaltering command of the work of other writers, you will be hard-pressed to find playing of greater authenticity.
Brian Charette and the music on this disc are a wonderful match; he conveys its ferbrile qualities with such naturalness, as is vividly demonstrated from the very get-go – Fats Waller’s ‘Jitterbug Waltz’. What’s striking about this and every other track on this disc how shockingly modern he makes this music sound. Better still, there is no gratuitous virtuosity, no knee-jerk lines, no undue filigree-work; just good old-fashioned swing. So much rhythmic beauty. You might also think that you know how this organ repertoire is to be played; how Jimmy Smith needs to be remembered. Think again: This is hyper-reactive, but always at the service of the music. Never has the emotional world of the Hammond B3 sounded so relatively unadorned. But there’s so much beauty, too. ; ‘Mellow Mood’ is a miracle of colour and nuance. While the sequence of chords towards the end of ‘Dance of the Infidels’ is utterly magical.
The best thing here is probably the non-organ works, the Woody Shaw composition ‘Zoltan’ and Wes Montgomery’s ‘Road Song’, which , delivered by Brian Charette with superbly insouciant virtuosity, has moments of dazzling spectacle and certainly draws the best out of this fine instrument. But then so is the rest of the material, which cushioned in the most beautiful sound puts this wondrous album up there on the map of organ music. This is such thoughtful and thought-provoking playing not only by the organist, but also by what also turns out to be the most perfect partners in crime: Will Bernard on guitar and Steve Fidyk on drums. However, first and foremost this is Brian Charette at his best, which is quite something.
Raul da Gama – JazzdaGama
Some guys are just too cool. Hammond B-3 organ master Brian Charette is one of those guys. Not only does he look cool, he knows his B-3 history, wrote a book (101 Hammond B-3 Tips), and for his 10th CD, Once & Future (Posi-Tone Records) he performs 14 tracks of super-cool B-3 funky jazz by a litany of great B-3 composers including himself. With only guitarist Will Bernard and drummer Steve Fidyk, Charette has dug down deep to come up with some gems in homage to his heroes — of which there are many.
Fats Waller’s “Jitterbug Waltz” and Larry Young’s “Tyrone” is a great one-two punch to start. (Yes, Fats played B-3 prior to becoming an ardent stride piano legend.) The “Latin From Manhattan” is an original tribute to the famous organist of The Copa in Rio, Ethel Smith. Somehow, some samba creeps in and it feels good. “Da Bug” is by 1960s New York City organist Freddie Roach.
Etta James owns “At Last” but this spunky instrumental version captures that melody fit to do your own singing along to. “Hot Barbecue” might’ve been written by another great B-3 man, Brother Jack McDuff, but the inherent drama of prog-rock organ icon Keith Emerson, who killed himself this year because his fingers were too crippled to play anymore, is all over this one. Charette not only digs ’70s superstars Emerson, Lake & Palmer, but he has a natural affinity for Deep Purple’s Jon Lord, whom he emulates on a song written by James Brown, “Ain’t It Funky Now.” Using Grant Green’s jazz cover as a template, he resurrects Lord’s sweeping rock vision, coupled with a nod to Tower Of Power who also covered JB’s skin-tight funk. Of course, any organ album has to have a little Jimmy Smith and here it’s “Mellow Mood.”
The closer is Charette’s own “Blues For 96” which he wrote when he lost his rent-stabilized New York City apartment. It is fitting to note that this is the building Led Zeppelin used as the cover shot to Physical Grafitti.
Mike Greenblatt – classicalite
While unboxing guitarist Will Bernard’s delightful latest offering Out & About a few months ago, it was impossible not to rave on the key contributions of his combo’s organist Brian Charette. Charette has regularly put in stellar supporting roles whether it’s for Posi-Tone Records stablemates like Bernard or any jazz leader of note in need of some maximal Hammond B3.
Once & Future (Posi-Tone, June 3, 2016) doesn’t reach for such levels of risk-taking but it does offer the occasion of hearing Charette again trading licks with Bernard, only with the leader/sideman roles reversed. No horns this time as Charette’s group is reduced to the tried-and-true organ/guitar trio (Steve Fidyk brings the drums). As a noted educator of the B3 (he writes instructional books and articles, conducts masterclasses and teaches at workshops), Once & Future can be thought of as a ‘clinic’ record where he touches on many of the various techniques of the jazz organ as well as many shades of sub-styles, from Jimmy Smith to Larry Young. In keeping, only three of these fourteen tunes are his and many of the rest might be familiar to you. They may also titillate with Charette’s manner by which he carries these songs…
S. Victor Aaron – Something Else Reviews
As if more proof was necessary Out & About confirms guitarist Will Bernard is as skilled a bandleader as he is an instrumentalist. And both roles require an artful approach as this album makes clear: it’s one thing to find talented musicians-as Bernard most certainly does here-it’s quite another to elicit that talent in such a way it complements the talent (and personality) of each of the other musicians involved.
In this context then Out & About is a most ambitious undertaking because Bernard enlists the assistance of three other formidable musicians: drummer Allison Miller, bassist Ben Allison and saxophonist John Ellis, all with their own careers and ensembles of some note and history (and based on that reality alone, some measurable and presumably healthy ego). But the San Francisco Bay Area guitarist also demonstrates the wisdom to preserve his relationship with long-time trio partner, organist Brian Charette, who acts as a combination catalyst and bonding agent unifying this quintet for the sake of the recording.
The five-some lightheartedly dance through “Happy Belated,” illustrating the easy going interactions of which they’re capable, then spend a little less than two minutes illustrating the grace and delicacy they can create on “Not too Fancy.” And, as “Next Guest” attests, it hardly matters who’s soloing here at any give time because, even as Bernard fingers his fret board with such precision here, Allison is almost equally so on bass, never colliding with the guitarist, but acting as a counterpoint as if to highlight the leader’s skill.
The album’s longest track at 6:45, “Habanera” features Charette drawing out the melody line in an altogether luxurious pace, but that doesn’t obscure the motion of Miller at her kit: her playing is so natural, it’s vivid enough to visualize. Meanwhile, Bernard leads by example, he using sufficiently varied tones and attacks to keep himself and all involved alert in a state of positive flux. Accordingly, Ellis twists and turns playing his horn on “Redwood (Business Casual)” where everyone is quick on the uptake of each other’s ideas. The leader unwinds more fluid lines on “Pan Seared,” and the keyboardist instinctively follows suit.
All of which such interplay is especially admirable given the economy of arrangement and production (by Marc Free from one day of recording in Brooklyn) within cuts in the three-to-five minute duration range. But then what better way to illustrate the versatility of a band than for it to move quick through the various changes Bernard presents in this all-original material. His understated vigor in this musicianship on the title song and “Homebody” insinuates the sounds within the listener’ Out & About will not recede into mere background music.
Doug Collette – All About Jazz
In every jazz lover’s mind there exists the perfect Hammond B-3 organ player. Whether that ultimate B-3 technician is Jimmy Smith, Charles Earland, Larry Young or Shirley Scott, certain defining parameters exist, regardless of the individual player.
But when it comes to Hammond B-3 mastery, Brian Charette wrote the book. Literally. His 101 Hammond B3 Tips (Hal Leonard) covers, among other topics, “funky scales and modes,” “creative chord voicings” and “cool drawbar settings.” Even more proof of his proficiency is heard on Once & Future, where Charette gives a master class in the many styles of B-3 playing, joined by guitarist Will Bernard and drummer Steve Fidyk.
Performing covers and original material, Charette’s B-3 touch is decidedly light, buoyant and playful. He brings his style to bear on hardcore grits ‘n’ gravy groovers by the acknowledged masters of the genre, as well as fare that puts me in mind of a cocktail party circa 1963. In that way, Once & Future acts as a calling card of sorts, a sampler of the many styles Charette and trio can bring to your next social function. Thankfully, there’s plenty of steam and smoke to balance the lighter punch bowl offerings.
The album kicks off with Fats Waller’s “Jitterbug Waltz,” delivered in groove-a-licious waltz-time goodness. Bubbly, swinging and steaming are apt descriptions here. The pace continues with Larry Young’s “Tyrone” (from 1965’s Into Somethin’), Bernard and Fidyk ramping up the temperature with able solos and fatback groove.
Charette’s sparkling “Latin From Manhattan” brings to mind Walter Wanderley as easily as it does Donald Fagen’s “Walk Between The Raindrops.” The trio knocks back Freddie Roach’s “Da Bug,” paints a dutiful rendition of “At Last” and stomps hard on Jack McDuff’s “Hot Barbeque.”
Other highlights include a beautiful, if jocular, version of Bud Powell’s “Dance Of The Infidels,” a note-perfect “Zoltan” as it appeared on Young’s 1966 masterpiece, Unity, and a cover of Wes Montgomery’s “Road Song.”
Both B-3 stylist and student, serious jazz scholar and glitzy entertainer, Charette is a burning soloist who understands the tradition of the Hammond B-3 as well its future—just as cerainly as he understands his place in that lineage.
Ken Micallef – Downbeat
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