2017 marks 30 years since bassist extraordinaire Charnett Moffett burst onto the scene with his Blue Note debut, Net Man. Barely 20 years old but already drawing attention for his virtuosic but soulful contributions to seminal recordings by Wynton Marsalis and Stanley Jordan, Moffett immediately staked out his position as one of the leading voices of his generation, uniquely adept at juggling tradition and innovation, explosive freedom and deep-pocket swing, with a fleet but muscular sound that remains instantly identifiable.
Due out May 19 from Motéma Music, Moffett's Music From Our Soul is at once a summation and a celebration. The album brings together a staggering all-star line-up of collaborators from throughout the bassist's life in music, in a variety of contexts and combinations that range from an Ellington classic to original compositions spanning free-jazz combustion, Coltrane-inspired spiritual seeking to blistering funk workouts, vigorous swing and powerhouse rock fusion. Legendary saxophonist Pharoah Sanders, ground-breaking guitarist Stanley Jordan, journeyman lead pianist Cyrus Chestnut, and iconic drummers Jeff "Tain" Watts, Mike Clark and Victor Lewis all share profound history with Moffett, but more importantly they also share a boundless passion for spontaneous creation that rushes forth from every note on this album.
"We have no choice but to continue to move forward," Moffett says. "You have your history, but time only goes one way. It never goes back. That's something that's beyond our control, so we have to be in the moment of where we are."
Three decades on from his recording debut as a leader, and over four decades since his first professional performance at age 8 in The Moffett Family Band, Moffett can look back on a richly storied career. It began at a remarkably young age in the family band led by his father, drummer Charles Moffett; was forged in his formative years in the thriving Bay Area fusion scene; developed along parallel tracks in the classically-oriented classrooms of Juilliard and the hothouse Greenwich Village club scene in early-80s New York City; and continued to evolve through experiences with iconic artists like Art Blakey, McCoy Tyner, Sonny Sharrock and Ornette Coleman, (Charnett is on his Pulitzer prize winning Sound Museum), along with like-minded peers including Wynton Marsalis and others from the Marsalis family, Kenny Garrett and longtime compatriot Jordan.
Incredibly, all of that rich and diverse history can be heard on the eclectic yet cohesive Music From Our Soul. The human soul, after all, continually grows and evolves over the course of a lifetime, enriched and enlightened by every encounter and experience. So if an artist truly plays from the soul, as Moffett has throughout his career, their music can't help but expand and deepen in similar ways.
"It's important to always express what you feel quite honestly and convey that in your music regardless of the style or sound that you're trying to create," Moffett says. "I naturally have the feeling to want to change, like a lot of artists. It took a lot of time and patience and care and consideration and thought from many different perspectives, but I feel like we were able to achieve a sound that is really true, that represents the history of my career, being influenced by different ways of expressing myself as a jazz artist."
Regardless of the emotional core of the pieces on Music From Our Soul, an exuberant joy shines through every piece, reflecting the electrifying chemistry of these musicians and the deep connections shared between them. Not least of those is the combination of Moffett and Jordan - a partnership that stretches back more than three decades and that bears echoes of the landmark tandem of Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker, not just in their dual innovations but in the acrobatic way their agile lines dodge and weave around each other (it's notable in this context that Moffett started out playing trumpet, and in many ways still thinks like a horn player). Jordan's astounding versatility becomes even more jaw-dropping on three cuts where he plays guitar and piano simultaneously.
"Charnett and I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area music scene in the 1970s," Jordan recalls. "Back in those days the scene was all about creativity. Mixing jazz with rock was cool, but selling out was not an option. Charnett has stayed true to his roots and today he has become a leading force in the creative music movement. It's my pleasure and honor to support his vision and his mission."
Sanders was a close friend of Moffett's father's who later hired the bassist for many of his own projects; Mike Clark was influential as a member of fusion pioneers The Headhunters with whom Moffett has crossed paths a number of times over the years. Chestnut, Lewis and Watts can trace collaborations with the bassist in terms of decades, not years - Watts all the way back to Wynton Marsalis' GRAMMY® winning milestone Black Codes (From the Underground). "Everyone on this album is a phenomenal, sensational artist," Moffett says. "It was an amazing opportunity and a fantastic experience to share their creative input."
Of course, the pivotal moments and transformations in life are not always positive ones. Many of Moffett's mentors - including the great Ornette Coleman - have passed on in recent years. An even more personal tragedy struck earlier this year when Moffett lost his wife of 30 years, actress and spoken word artist Angela Moffett.
"The only thing I can do now is put my energy into something that's positive, with a lot of life and love in it," Moffett says. "That is definitely the art form of improvisational creative jazz music. It definitely lets you know that life is always expanding and things are always evolving."
Stanley Jordan appears courtesy of Mack Avenue Records and
Cyrus Chestnut appears courtesy of HighNote Records.
Upcoming Charnett Moffett Shows
March 31 - Tavern On The Lake - Hightstown, NJ
April 21 - Exit Zero Jazz Festival - Convention Hall Stage - Cape May, NJ
(Album Release Celebration w/ Brian Jackson, Jeff "Tain" Watts)
April 22 - Exit Zero Jazz Festival - Iron Pier Craft House - Cape May, NJ (solo)
June 14 - Blues Alley - Washington DC
July 27 - Scullers - Boston MA
Charnett Moffett · Music From Our Souls
Label: Motéma Music · Release Date: May 19, 2017