Charlie was on a quick-fire tour of the UK, performing in London, Coventry and Manchester before making his way back to the United States to continue touring across the pond. I have known Charlie’s music since the mid 1990s when he came to international attention with his Blue Note album called Bing Bing Bing which was played a lot on jazz radio. Charlie’s music always has a strong groove orientation and that has been evident in all of his subsequent releases, whether more on the commercial side, or a more abstract style; Charlie never loses sight of the groove in his music, and he has released well over twenty albums during this period.
That musical concept was very much in evidence in his live performance where he was joined by an excellent British based Cuban trumpeter Yelfris Valdés and drummer Carter McLean. The first thing that strikes you as a watching audience is that three becomes four! Charlie doubles up as the bass player on his custom made seven string guitar, using his thumb to play the baseline whilst also playing guitar chords or taking a solo. An incredible skill which no doubt is quite a niche in the world of music; we often see bass players use a six string bass guitar to play in the higher register for solos, but not the other way round. On stage the music of a quartet was being made, much in the way a Hammond organist might play bass using their foot pedals.
The music was pretty good too. There was a lot of space, leaving it to the imagination of the listeners to fill the spaces, the phrase “less is more” springs to mind. Charlie played tunes from his vaults including his most recent release, the amusingly titled Everybody Has A Plan Until They Get Punched In The Mouth. However, Charlie also kept the audience on their toes, slipping in references to famous tunes in his repertoire, leaving me to ponder “what tune was that?” with the answer flashing to me some moments later. That “guess what tune” theme continued throughout; Charlie performed Wishing Well, a tune originally sung by Terrence Trent Darby back in the late 1980s. Charlie also slipped in riffs of Faith by George Michael and performed a Curtis Mayfield tune for good measure, it definitely brought something different musically which the audience really enjoyed.
Charlie was ably supported by Yelfris and Carter who did great comping and superb solos as well, it was a thoroughly entertaining evening of music from a master performer who believes in music first as opposed to showing off his chops and technique.
By Laurie Burnette