“The bass is a machine and it has its limitations,” Moffett states. “Believe me, I’ve tried to get things out of it that the instrument won’t give. I guess that’s why I got into the whole effects thing, because I’m always reaching for something else.”
The Art of Improvisation reveals that something else and then some. From the free jazz blowout “Dreams” to the raucous “Swing Rock” to the funky Middle Eastern flavored “Moses,” to the introspective “Call For Peace” - which features an unlikely pairing of Moffett with the ethereal RealWorld artist Yungchen Lhamo (‘The Voice of Tibet’) - Moffett pulls the very best out of himself and his fellow improvisors on his most eclectic outing to date. The closer, a volatile, Hendrix-inspired drum and bass version of “The Star Spangled Banner,” creates an electrifying coda to this very personal manifesto for three basses, and recalls Moffet’s fame for playing the Star Spangled Banner on upright bass at venues around the world.
About this new edgier rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner,” played on fretless electric bass with distortion pedal set on stun and wah-wah pedal fully engaged Moffett says, “People think I’m playing the anthem for political reasons, but I just like the song. It’s become my own personal standard, and I’m always trying to figure out how many different ways I can interpret it.”
Moffett, who has circumnavigated the globe countless times on tour with jazz legends such as McCoy Tyner, Ornette Coleman and Wynton Marsalis, has most recently been enjoying a steady life on the road with Stanley Jordan supporting the Grammy nominated, 2008 release, State of Nature on which Moffett and Jordan reconnect with passion, 23 years after their initial stint in the limelight together as young jazz phenoms on Stanley’s Magic Touch release.
On The Art of Improvisation, Moffett is joined by drummers Will Calhoun and Eric McPherson, keyboardist Scott Brown, guitarists Pat Jones and Shane Barnes and trumpeter RJ Avallone. Actress Angela Moffett stirringly recites the inspiring words of poet Langston Hughes on ‘“Dreams.” Regarding the indelible hookup with his 20-year-old son Charnett Max, who plays drums on “Dreams,” “Swing Rock” and “The Star Spangled Banner,” Moffett reveals, “It’s a real blast playing with him. It’s just amazing how much his groove reminds me of my dad’s (jazz drum legend, Charles Moffett). There’s a lot of telepathy happening there, for obvious reasons, and a deep spiritual connection between us. He keeps such a great legacy going from the musical family that I come from.”
A seasoned veteran who has released a string of superb outings as a leader and has toured and recorded with some of the greatest innovators in jazz - Ornette Coleman, McCoy Tyner, Art Blakey, Herbie Hancock, Pharoah Sanders to name a few - Moffett explores the outer reaches of jazz with his three chosen instruments and fellow collaborators on The Art Of Improvisation. He comes by the eclecticism of his approach naturally. “I actually started out on drums when I was about three, then played trumpet at about age five, and by the time I was seven I was standing on a milk crate playing bass on tour with the Moffett Family Band,” he recalls. “I guess playing trumpet for three or four years is where my piccolo bass appetite comes from. I hear the bass as a melody instrument. The upright is my foundation and my fretless electric bass is dead center from the sounds of the piccolo and the upright. And when I use the wah-wah, I’m just trying to express a voice, like when Miles Davis put his mute in his trumpet. It’s just an extension of expressing myself.”
Moffett will tour to support The Art of Improvisation, primarily in a trio format though some concerts will be performed solo and some with the septet.
Charnett Moffett · The Art Of Improvisation (Motema Music)· Release Date: May 12, 2009