Acclaimed jazz bassist Charnett Moffett has performed with a who's who of jazz artists while also leading his own cutting-edge ensembles. His latest venture: The Nettwork Trio, any combo of musicians Moffett feels can best explore the divergent aspects of his more than three-decade long career. The current incantation includes guitarist Stanley Jordan and drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts, past Moffett collaborators "ideally suited" to bring his music alive in a fresh context.
On guitar, Jordan remains inspired as much by Jimi Hendrix as Grant Green, offering an unparalleled drive and improvisational approach to performance. His unique style that approaches the fret board in an over-the-top fashion is more reminiscent of playing a piano. It works, and his Grammy-covered mantel proves it. Plenty of good jazz drummers exist; Watts is a stratospheric jazz drummer operating with deft insight and anticipation, a master of the open spaces as well as lightning fills and complex rhythmic structures. Watts, who cut his chops with the Marsalis clan, mixes just the right level of funky grit with finesse. Simply explained, here's a jazz super group where anything goes.
"There's plenty of room for improvisation," Moffett concurs. "Songs will take on new meaning."
Up on the Sun caught up with Moffett at his Philadelphia home to discuss the Nettwork Trio concept, his collaboration with Stanley Jordan and Jeff "Tain" Watts, and the art of improvisation.
Up on the Sun: All three trio members have solid careers. You're all busy with your own bands or as sidemen. I'd think you'd all be too busy to collaborate. So how did this trio come together?
Charnett Moffett: We're really excited to be bringing this new music to the people of Phoenix. What we do is network many different styles and concepts of music in a cohesive way from the aspects of American classical music, which is what jazz is about. This particular unit actually came together with Stanley Jordan and Jeff "Tain" Watts to play the music I've been playing a lifetime. I wanted to find the right artists to play with me who could do a diversified style of music. When you have great musicians like Jordan and Watts they actually simply to music enough to diversify the form artistically without any musical boundaries.
You all have very varied backgrounds and histories, having played with a who's who of jazz luminaries. You talk about diversified styles, but what are some of those styles?
We actually cover a very large quantity of diverse styles of music. Everything from Bach to boogie, Stravinsky to Miles Davis. What's important to understand is that when you write music, which I've been doing for a lifetime, it's the same 12 notes. It doesn't matter how the music's presented, what's really important is the message and the emotional content in how it's presented. Really, what it's about is bringing people together and having a good time, and creating a positive experience people can take home with them. That said, we incorporate many styles of music. I put this band together specifically for that reason. As an American composer, we'll be drawing more from the music I originally picked for my [solo] projects.
As a band, you haven't recorded together. What are the challenges you face taking these songs to the stage?
Actually, we've been together for a lifetime, playing together on and off for over 25 years. Jeff and I go way back, having played with Wynton Marsalis, we're going to be reunited in a unique way. With Stanley, we've really had a chance work together in some quality time. But, Nettwork is not just stuck with one style of format. We recently finished up a four-night engagement in New York, which featured [other musicians]. The whole purpose of Nettwork was to give musicians and opportunity to work with me in conditions I've always wanted to work in, that is, from a composer's standpoint in the lead position.
Sounds like Nettwork Trio is more of a concept. It doesn't matter who the musicians are, the idea is to provide fresh interpretations of your music.
Yes, exactly. There's plenty of room for improvisation. Songs will take on new meaning. That's the wonderful thing about working with musicians who have mastered improvisation. Improvisation is an important part of American classical music, important part of jazz. Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie introduced it to the pop culture, which was very important. This mix is the perfect example of the quality and how we strive to present the music. We're very exciting about coming here and giving the audience something positive to hold on to.
You guys are all jazz superstars, leaders in your own right. So how is it everyone can come together and work together in such a cohesive way without egos clashing?
It's a lot more interesting and creative if you have new challenges to rise too. We have a responsibility as artists to enlighten people to our culture from an artistic standpoint. We're doing our part to uplift the spiritual level of people all over the world, as we should be being united as human beings.
Are you playing upright, or electric bass here, or both?
I'll be bringing all my basses. The piccolo electric bass, acoustic upright bass and I'll be promoting all of the possibilities of different colors and sounds available. Every situation is different and we don't limit ourselves. We just follow what's in our heart. More importantly, we don't want to be stagnated but you never know, we may start playing some rock and roll. We may start playing something by Bach. It's all about where you are in the space and time creatively that adds excitement.
Correction: This article originally published with an incorrect byline.
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