Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Wild, Surreal, Psychedelic Keyboard Mashups From Brian Charette

The latest artist to defiy the odds and put the grim early days of the lockdown to good use is Brian Charette, arguably the most cutting-edge organist in jazz. As you will see on his new solo album, Like the Sun – streaming at his music page – he plays a whole slew of other styles. Challenging himself to compose and improvise against a wild bunch of rhythmic loops in all sorts of weird time signatures, he pulled together one of his most entertaining records. This one’s definitely the most surreal, psychedelic and playful of all of them – and he has made a lot.

Basically, this is a guy alone in his man cave mashing up sounds as diverse as twinkly Hollywood Hills boudoir soul, squiggly dancefloor jams, P-Funk stoner interludes, Alan Parsons Project sine-wave vamps and New Orleans marches, most of them ultimately under the rubric of organ jazz.

At the heart of the opening track, 15 Minutes of Fame lies a catchy gutbucket Hammond organ riff and variations…in this case surrounded by all sorts of warpy textures and strange, interwoven rhythms. Time Piece, the second track, could be a synthy late 70s ELO miniature set to a shuffly drum machine loop, with a rapidfire B3 crescendo.

Slasher is not a horror theme but a reference to a chord with an unusual bass note – as Charette says in his priceless liner notes, “If they can get along, why can’t we?” This one’s basically a soul song without words with some tricky changes.

Honeymoon Phase could be a balmy Earth Wind and Fire ballad, Charette’s layers of keys taking the place of the brass. He builds the album’s title track around an Arabic vocal sample, with all sorts of wry touches surrounding a spacy, catchy theme and variations in 5/8 time.

Mela’s Cha Cha – inspired by Charette’s wife, the electrifyingly multistylistic singer Melanie Scholtz – is what might have happened if George Clinton, Larry Young and Ruben Blades were all in the same room together circa 1983. Three Lights has a warmly exploratory groove over a catchy bassline and a hypnotic syndrum beat.

Break Tune is a rare opportunity to hear Charette play guitar, adding a little Muscle Shoals flavor to this gospel-tinged, Spike Lee-influenced mashup. You might not expect a melody ripped “from a punchy synth brass preset on the Korg Minilogue,” as Charette puts it, or changes influenced by the great Nashville pianist Floyd Cramer in an organ jazz tune, but that’s what Charette is up to in From Like to Love.

Creole is a more traditional number, with a New Orleans-inflected groove and a handful of devious Joni Mitchell quotes. 7th St. Busker, inspired by a cellist playing on the street in the West Village, follows in the same vein but with a strange vocal sample underneath the good-natured, reflective organ solo.

Robot Heart would make a solid hip-hop backing track; Charette closes the record with 57 Chevy, a funky shout-out to Dr. Lonnie Smith, who goes back to that era.

December 10, 2020 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album of the Day 11/27/10

Every day our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Saturday’s album is #794:

Funkadelic – America Eats Its Young

Here’s a band that pretty much everybody agrees on. But the two most popular “best-of” music lists up here in the cloud already grabbed One Nation Under a Groove and Maggot Brain. So what’s left? Pretty much everything P-Funk ever did. Here’s one you might not have thought about for awhile. This characteristically sprawling, eclectic, amusing, and frequently scathing 1972 double lp might be George Clinton’s most rock-oriented album, stone cold proof that these guys were just as good a rock act as a funk band. This is the core of the early group: the brilliant and underrated Tyrone Lampkin on drums, Bootsy on bass, Eddie Hazel on guitar and Bernie Worrell on swirling, gothic-tinged organ putting his New England Conservatory degree to good use. A lot of this takes Sly Stone-style funk to the next level: the fast antiwar/antiviolence shuffle You Hit the Nail on the Head; the artsy, orchestrated eco-anthem If You Don’t Like the Effects, Don’t Produce the Cause; and the vicious, bouncy antidrug anthem Loose Booty. I Call My Baby Pussycat is epic and funny; the title track is even more so, a slow stoner soul vamp with a message, an orgasmic girl vocalese intro, and a faux Isaac Hayes rap by Clinton: “Who is this bitch?” The pensive ballad Miss Lucifer’s Love predates Radiohead by 35 years; Bootsy gets down and dirty with an oldschool R&B feel on Philmore. Biological Speculation offhandedly makes the case that if we don’t pull our act together, nature just might do it for us – without us. And it’s got a pedal steel solo?!? The album closes with a politically charged gospel number, the guys in the choir trading verses with the girls. Here’s a random torrent.

November 27, 2010 Posted by | funk music, lists, Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: Bernie Worrell’s SociaLybrium at Metrotech Park, Brooklyn NY 6/10/10

The name of Bernie Worrell’s latest band is an ironic pun: the last thing the legendary P-Funk keyboardist and music director wants is a comatose, complacent audience. The tired workday crowd at the park where Myrtle deadends into Jay in downtown Brooklyn wasn’t dancing, but they were paying close attention. Worrell and his backing trio rewarded them with a characteristically sly, smartly diverse show. The Wizard of Woo doesn’t make a big deal out of it, but he has a couple of degrees from the prestigious New England Conservatory, and that knowledge resonates throughout pretty much everything he plays. Today Worrell did a lot of funk, but he also showed off his jazz chops, and more captivatingly, his jazz ideas: agile chromatic piano runs, incisively terse blues-based phrases, lots of swirling, Jimmy Smith-inflected organ and a devious refusal to land on an obvious resolution at the end of a phrase. Drummer J.T. Lewis kept things terse and rock solid, and bassist Melvin Gibbs was a revelation: he’s come a long, long way from his days in Living Color. Moving from a steady, almost minimal low-register boom to the occasional judicious chord and a bent-string melody here and there, he was welcome wherever he decided to embellish the melody, and he didn’t waste a note. Worrell has no doubt been a good influence. Southpaw Strat player Ronny Drayton has spectacular chops and used them most effectively on the quieter numbers, adding spacy, atmospheric washes, thoughtfully chorded soul fills and even some bracing sheets of feedback out of one of his solos. But when he soloed, it was all gratuitous funk-metal: he’d put the bite on or add garish vibrato where he could have really driven Worrell’s slow crescendos all the way home. Unless Worrell counterintuitively wanted him to play the buffoon (as Worrell himself did a few times with woozy portamento and some even squigglier, oscillating synth textures). You never know with this guy: he’s bright.

Worrell opened solo, playing variations on the Kool Man ice cream truck theme. They shuffled their way through a psychedelic, reggae-tinged vamp titled Rockers Uptown with Worrell evoking Augustus Pablo with some humidly breezy melodica work when he wasn’t adding organ fills. They wound that up with a dub flourish of an outro, led by Drayton of all people. Worrell explained that another number, predictably titled Funk, was a commentary on “world government” and complacency on the part of those who mindlessly accept it. “Put it in the trunk, stash that shit!” he snarled. The best number of the afternoon started out darkly atmospheric, driven by guitar washes and string synthesizer, almost a requiem – and then it got comedic, with all kinds of silly synth fills, and somehow the band made it work. BQE, from the band’s new album started out as a warped boogie but an endless guitar solo made it interminable, like getting stuck in traffic on the way to Coney Island right after the Prospect Park exit. But again, maybe that was the point. When Worrell announced that they were about to do a Buckethead song, that was the signal that it was time to get up and get back to work. For those who regret missing this show, the band is playing the Undead Jazz Festival, with a show at le Poisson Rouge on the 12th at about 9:15.

June 10, 2010 Posted by | concert, funk music, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment