Monday, October 17, 2005

Charnett Moffett in the Land of Giants

The first time I heard bassist Charnett Moffett he was playing with Kenny Garrett. It was unforgetable, just brilliant. Over the following months, I sought out and listened to Moffett's recorded work, but none of it quite impressed me the way his live performance had. So I filed it away.

Recently I picked up McCoy Tyner's Land of Giants, featuring Tyner on Piano, Bobby Hutcherson on vibes, Eric Harland on Drums, and Moffett on bass. Land of Giants is yet another of those "It's just not possible for me to diappoint you" recordings one expects from Tyner. Stylistically it's straightup modern jazz, but the energy and musicianship of the performers make it impossible to take for granted. At any moment, you could be astounded. Totally floored, as I was on hearing Moffett's solo on Tyner's tune, "The Search." There is a moment of unfathomable uniqueness, and then you realize that this is the way the music is supposed to sound. I don't know how Tyner does it, but I know he does it. Besides being a genius at the piano, he consistently brings out the best in the musicians he plays with, on stage and in the studio.

Shortly after Land of Giants came out, Moffett described in an interview how working with Tyner had contributed to his own musical development.

…So the only thing I can really tell you is that I’m trying to be honest with the things I hear and the way I hear the music, the way I’ve been taught and raised into this music. I was always taught to be yourself. You have to know your history, but you have to go forward also. That’s one of the great things about working with McCoy. He has such a great lineage throughout the music from his beginning to where he is now. I remember talking to him about themes of this subject matter, and he said, "Sometimes you gotta go like the palm tree. You have to be able to flow with things. In a storm, you have to bend to this side, and sway back to the other side." [That’s] very evident in his playing. Now it’s bringing out another element of my playing. To be able to be grounded and centered, but also to be able to go with whatever happens with respect to wherever we are in the composition. Because what happens a lot of times is, we’ll be playing a standard or even a blues and we’ll be playing the tune and we’ll improvise off of the form of the changes of the song. Then out of nowhere, McCoy will go on this extended creative run that will have everything to do with the tune in terms of the melodic and harmonic structure, yet free of the form. It keeps me on my toes because I have to accompany him in a way that’s appropriate without being selfish because it’s always about putting the music first so you can make the best choices and the best sound that’s harmonious with the environment. So that’s the wonderful thing about playing music…it really brings people together. It’s a very exciting thing for me to be a part of because it’s creatively inspiring and musically interesting.


Basically, the more comfortable you are with yourself, the more comfortable you are with others. And sometimes understanding yourself can be the most difficult thing in the world. Because you are constantly changing. Not because you don’t have a focus point, but because you are seeking new ideas and information all the time. So if you’re interested—so if you have that way of wanting to live—then you know that you’re constantly in a search. That was one of the great things about playing that composition—“The Search”—on the Land of Giants. That’s basically why I’m having a great time with McCoy right now. The things I’m interested in developing in my life, not only musically, but personally—they all coincide with each other—basically, he’s already gotten to a point where he understands these things and I’m trying to take the opportunity to learn and grow from him.

Charnett Moffett: File under "G" for Giant.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 11:20 PM.


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