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Notations from — Charnett Moffett, Pt. II


Acclaimed bassist Charnett Moffett is comfortable playing with a band or solo, as he’s doing at the PDX Jazz Festival. His motto: “Jazz is a great American art form and I’m grateful to be a part of it and am still enjoying the many possible ways of discovering this music.”  

Read Part I here.

You have an affinity for Eastern music, correct?  

I have an appreciation for Eastern music…. In 1975, when I was a young musician, I had the chance to go to Japan, and I heard all those styles of music, and the pentatonic scales, five-note scales and things of that nature. I would have loved to have played with Ravi Shankar because the bass is a string instrument. In jazz, you have the loudest instrument next to the softest instrument – the bass stands next to the drums and the drummer can hit the drum as hard or as soft as he likes to. Meanwhile, bass players are using the fingers, the skin on their hands, to pluck the string, but they cannot keep up with a drummer with a stick hitting dynamically or physically. So with someone like Ravi Shankar, you can really hear overtones of the instrument.  

What musical era would you wish to visit and play in?  

Tough question. I have met John Coltrane, whom I wasn’t privileged to see play live, but I was able to see Miles Davis live. Growing up in the ‘70s, there was a lot of good music playing in that time that’s not so noticeable nowadays because of the fusing of rock with jazz – it’s a little more complicated for teaching institutions, not as easy to teach as something more standard-oriented. But it can be done.  

So that era has inspired you?  

I would probably say I’m thankful for the era I came up in, rather than choose a particular time. Because the music I’m currently working with, and have been doing, is influenced by the ‘60s and ‘70s, I see how all has linked up together. Being the same musical choices diatonically speaking, we’re still using the same notes to play the music. Miles’ “Kind of Blue” is one of my favorite jazz records.  

What instrument other than the bass do you appreciate the most?  

The voice. All instruments are just tools to express your voice. A lot of time when I’m playing the bass, I’m not thinking about the bass in a traditional sense anymore. I’m thinking about it in a way to express what I want to say. The chord structure, no matter how complicated or simple it may be, when you say to someone, “Let’s do this song,” the first thing they think about is, “How does this song go?”  

You’re on stage, ready to play the bass. What’s the next thing that comes to mind?  

Making sure the bass is in tune. Have to have it tuned up [laughs], including tuning the mind, body and soul, so that you’re prepared to play music with a flow of creativity and share it with people. That’s what goes on in my mind. And, of course, you can feel the energy and vibrations from the audience.  

What’s a tune you’ve heard or re-heard recently and added to your repertoire?  

The other day I heard “Nature Boy” by Nat King Cole and I’ve added it to my repertoire because I can relate to the song and the lyrics of it.

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