Virtuoso trio are at the top of their game for their Glasgow Jazz Festival show, writes Jim Gilchrist
When the Nettwork Trio take the Old Fruitmarket stage on 28 June during Glasgow Jazz Festival, they will bring with them an awesome collective musical pedigree, having developed their chops as individuals with the likes of Ornette Coleman, McCoy Tyner, Art Blakey, Pharoah Sanders, Quincy Jones... the list goes on. But if the members of this American jazz-fusion trio have absorbed their craft from jazz legends, they are each becoming renowned in their own right.
The Nettwork Trio has been led, in one incarnation or another, over more than two decades, by bassist Charnett Moffett – a man whose stated mission is “to bring people together on the planet through music,” not to mention showcasing both the double and electric bass as virtuosic front-line instruments. This most recent line-up, however, is arguably its most potent, featuring as it does guitarist Stanley Jordan, who can bring his uniquely pianistic attack on the guitar fretboard to bear on repertoire as diverse as Duke Ellington and Led Zeppelin, and Jeff “Tain” Watts, a master drummer whose style attracts epithets such as “volcanic”.
One might wonder how a trio of such distinctly individualistic stylists might hold together, but, as Moffett explains from his New York base, they know each other from way back. “These are long-term friends who are masters of their instruments, and the kind of diversity they bring really allows you to play creative music in a very energetic way.
“It’s been an amazing experience,” he says of the trio’s touring schedule since the beginning of the year, which has taken in California, Switzerland, Japan and most recently the Atlanta Jazz Festival. “Mr Watts and I worked together with the Wynton Marsalis Quartet back in the Eighties, when we played on the Grammy-award winning record Black Codes (From the Underground), but we’d always talked about doing something different together if we had a chance to do so. It took us a long time to get round to it but we’re finally here.”
Moffett supported Jordan for many years as a Blue Note stable-mate, “but I’ve actually known him since the Seventies when we met as youngsters at one of our Moffett Family band concerts. I remember years ago when Stanley was opening for the Wynton band and after shows we would talk about the creative possibilities of getting together.”
That first encounter with Jordan reminds us that jazz courses through Moffett’s very DNA. Just turned 48, he first started touring and recording at the age of seven with the family band run by his drummer and teacher father, Charles Moffett. His first name, in fact, is a combination of his father’s and that of revered saxophonist Ornette Coleman, in whose band both father and later son played. At home, he recalled, there was the music of John Coltrane, as well as the John Philip Souza marches his father prepared for his students, while the family band opened for popular acts such as the Isley Brothers and Earth Wind and Fire.
Studying classical music at the Juilliard School, by the time he was 16 he had left to tour with the Wynton Marsalis Quintet, going on to play with Branford Marsalis, Herbie Hancock and other luminaries.
While albums such as The Art of Improvisation and the solo Bridge, demonstrate Moffett’s virtuosic approach to both double bass and electric bass guitar, the current line-up sees him stick to fretless electric bass guitar and also the higher-tuned piccolo electric bass. He’s clearly enthusiastic about the project: “The last time I was in a very creative situation like this it was with Ornette Coleman’s three-bass quartet.”
His trio’s volatile brand of jazz fusion joins a correspondingly eclectic festival programme which takes in the Brooklyn-based musician and DJ Taylor McFerrin with drummer Marcus Gilmore, Brazilian bossa legend Marcos Valle, soul singer Jarrod Lawson and Australian world-jazz outfit the Vampires.
Other guests include singer Lianne Carroll, saxophonist Rachel Cohen and pianists Zoe Rahman and John Taylor, while Scottish notables include saxophonist Laura MacDonald with her Quartet and the trumpet-sax duo of Ryan Quigley and Paul Towndrow playing with a string orchestra. There’s also fusion outfit Fat Suit, electric funk from the Hamish Stuart Band and the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra in concert with Eddie Reader, while the final of the Young Scottish Jazz Musician of the Year competition is at the festival’s Rio Club in Merchant Square.
• The Nettwork Trio play the Old Fruitmarket on 28 June, www.jazzfest.co.uk