Live Review: Brian Charette and Jordan Young at Kerrytown Concert House

Brian Charette

photo by Anna Yatskevich; photo courtesy of Brian Charette

by Eric Harabadian, Contributing Blogger

Brian Charette and Jordan Young

Kerrytown Concert House, Ann Arbor, MI

October 23, 2017

Brian Charette is an internationally renowned jazz organist/pianist/multi-keyboardist who has been a creative force on the music scene for over 20 years. He has played with many luminaries from all walks of the music world. Jazz legends Houston Person and Lou Donaldson, pop icons Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon, Chaka Khan, and Cyndi Lauper, and the Allman Brothers’ drummer Jaimoe have all employed Charette’s services at one time or another.

Brian Charette

photo by Simon Yu; photo courtesy of Brian Charette

On this particular night in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the keyboardist was joined by frequent contributor and right-hand man Jordan Young on drums and vocoder. The intimate and acoustically perfect theater was host to a musical journey that included an intoxicating mix of straight ahead bebop, acoustic piano musings, and “circuit bent” electronica. The term “circuit bent” refers to the manipulation of certain electronic gadgets (i.e. effects pedals and patch boards) that have been manually altered to “misfire” or change their natural pattern of sequence or flow. The result, in conjunction with keyboard-triggered samples, makes for a sensory roller coaster ride with few boundaries.

The majority of the music played during the concert was drawn from one of Charette’s newest recordings entitled Kürrent. While there were visually only two people on stage, the wealth of sounds that emanated from them both was quite amazing. They began with a tune called “Doll Fin” that firmly established their working relationship and affinity from the start. Via a modular SK1 Hammond keyboard, Charette initiated the tune, with a pulsating left hand bass and assured comping. A convergence of synthesizer swells from his Korg unit along with assorted odds and ends soon conjured up a cacophony of otherworldy sounds. The slithery groove was further cemented by Young’s nimble drumming that consistently pushed and played off the beat. With the array of keyboard whimsy and circuit bending in full display, Young added to the mix by playing “real time” samples on the vocoder as well as speaking into the device creating “Daffy Duck”-like sounds. Yes, I repeat, “Daffy Duck” sounds which were oddly appropriate and cool!

Brian Charette

photo by Melanie Scholtz; photo courtesy of Brian Charette

That was followed by a piece that was slightly more mainstream called “Time Changes.” It was kind of a straight-ahead Jimmy Smith style blowing tune in which the inventive duo swung like crazy. Charette tastefully integrated flourishes of color on synthesizer to add accents and atmosphere to things. “Mano Y Mano” was the line repeated in robotic fashion by Young through the vocoder. This set the pace for a tune that was part experimental and part acid jazz freak out. Quick and taut bebop framed lines comprised the main body of the melody and were another strong vehicle for the duo’s improvisations.

Charette shared with the audience the fact that the follow up composition, “Standing Still,” was one of the very first tunes he had written. It was a very lilting and upbeat piece, with a light swing. That soon gave way to throbbing and pulsating loops that reverberated in the background as Charette stepped over behind the beautiful house piano to the side of the stage. He played some great Chick Corea/Herbie Hancock-like accompaniment before returning to the Hammond to resolve in a samba and swinging coda.

Another highlight of the night was a tune dedicated to quirky NYC scat singer Shooby Taylor called “Shooby’s Riff.” Charette playfully triggered samples of Shooby’s voice amid a killer bass line and Young’s consistent rhythms. They included another dedication to composer/instrumentalist Tadd Dameron by playing an acoustic piano and drums duet called “Tadd’s Delight.” It was a swinging and really sweet piece, with a hint of ragtime and some wonderful brush work by Young. They concluded the evening with another cut off the Kürrent album called “Conquistador.” It basically put an indelible stamp on their ambitious, nearly 90-minute set, with an array of shifting tempos and time signatures, staccato melodic lines and smooth transitions in mood and sonic textures.

Brian Charette

photo by Simon Yu; photo courtesy of Brian Charette

Brian Charette and Jordan Young are exemplary artists who are doing something very significant and interesting, with their dedication to upholding the jazz tradition while simultaneously fusing a myriad of seemingly disparate elements within that context. This is the future of jazz and improvisational music.

Looking Ahead

Brian’s tour continues, so check the itinerary page of his website to see if he has any upcoming live dates near you. Tonight, Friday, October 27th, he’s at the Blue Note Bistro in Miamisburg, OH; tomorrow, Saturday, October 28th, he’ll be at Memorial Hall in Cincinnati, OH; and Sunday, October 29th, he’ll be at The Greenwich, also in Cincinnati. Beyond that, Brian will be in New York, NY on November 6th and in Miami, FL on November 7th, 8th, and 9th. He has additional November dates in Beacon, NY; Rochester, NY; Methuen, MA; New York City; and Nyack, NY; with shows in South Africa, Europe, and the U.S. West Coast also on the calendar. Again, be sure to check his website to see if he’ll be in your neighborhood.

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