Friday, August 16, 2013

Brian Charette - DownBeat

Brian Charette
*** 1/2

Few people can get away with playing solo organ. Churches and ballparks will hire someone to employ all their limbs for the congregation but it's a rare sight to get a jazz organist alone. Brian Charette, on his first solo organ album, tackles a lot of the standard repertoire but doesn't hesitate to throw a few curveballs into the mix. Many of those old chestnuts can get a little hokey, unable to slip out from the inherently loungey trappings of the instrument. Numbers like "Tico Tico" and "Girl From Ipanema" carry on with all the components of that organ grinder sound, hanging just this side of Walt Wanderley but Charette seems well aware of those songs' reputations and not particularly concerned about liberating them from their populist history. When he slows the pace and lets the instrument resonate, there is an undeniable sweetness to his sound that goes beyond any cultural context. "Georgia" and "Body and Soul" take on a smooth, bluesy hum that shows off the instrument's relaxed capabilities while a blistering ride through "I Got Rhythm" showcases Charette's quick-fingered mastery of the instrument. The unexpected numbers however have a weight far more than one might think they are deserving of. Hall and Oates' "Sara Smile" gets a soulful slide while Bond theme "You Only Live Twice" plays with the multi-tasking aspects of the hulking keyboard for a soaring mediation. But it's the title track that takes the biggest cojones. There can't be that many straightahead jazz albums named after a Madonna song, so cheers to Charette for taking it there. The performance of "Borderline" works. The bouncy interaction between the basslinea nd melody are seamless, coupling recognition and disbelief in the same measure, while seemingly opening up a largely untapped musical corner for playful improvisation.

Charette @ DownBeat

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