Led by acclaimed Italian composer/producer Eraldo Bernocchi (Sigillum S, Mick Harris, Francesca Lago, Jungle Brothers), Charged Live captures performances in Japan, Germany, and Holland with an ensemble consisting of bassist Bill Laswell (Herbie Hancock, Pharoah Sanders, Tony Williams, Peter Gabriel), electric trumpet player Toshinori Kondo (DJ Krush, United Future Organization, William Parker), drummer Hamid Drake (Peter Brotzmann, Ken Vandermark), percussionist Aiyb Dieng (Sly Dunbar, Herbie Hancock, Bootsy Collins), and turntablist DJ Disk (Rock Steady Crew, Primus).
Following an LP released in 1999 on Innerhythmic (INR 02 as well as the Japanese R&S label), selections for this set on Innerhythmic were handpicked by Bernocchi himself and highlight the tightness of this great lineup, arguably some of the finest players on the global jazz landscape. The production work is masterfully handled by Oz Fritz and Michael Fossenkemper, who respectively do what is usually impossible: capture the hugeness and energy of a live performance without losing the crisp, dynamic studio sound. Musically, Charged spends most of its time in a hard-driving post Bitches Brew funk schema, with obvious priority given to rhythm and mood. Said to be completely improvised, the collaborative rhythmic movement throughout by this unparalleled rhythm section is staggering. And while melodic, the eery electro-brass blasts of Kondo, based around his staccato phrasing and abstract stream-of-consciousness soloing, and Bernocchi’s spacey guitars and non-calculated electronic experimentation, push for atmosphere over compositional structure.
‘Shintotech Iridescence’ begins the journey and encapsulates what might be heard if dub musicians were performing in the cockpit of a utilitarian space vehicle. However beyond the opening number, the recording tastes much more of stage-improvisation. The rhythm section tears through the opening of ‘Fathoms’ led by Disc’s knife-hands on the turntables, followed by a wide-mouthed groove vamping beneath guitar experimentations by Bernocchi. ‘Death Tools’ builds a two-and-a-half minute noise crescendo up to the brink of explosion (!), when an expansive groove driven by Dieng and Drake’s go-go funk union comes and saves the day with a nod to the jazzier side of Trouble Funk.
‘Duel Sufis’ starts by pitting this circle of rhythmic giants against each other in a classic trade-of-fours, eventually conjoining hard scratching, tribal Latin drumming, and the almighty power of Hamid Drake together at top speed in a rollicking stream-roller action- scene. Then, as if the sleeping giant were awoken, ‘Subterrania’ reintroduces Bill Laswell in a roaring declaration of aggressive dub and hard cumbia.
Concluding the set, ‘Overloaded Lila’ features a collaboration with Maleem Mahmoud Ghania and the Gnawa Musicians of Morocco, providing 16 minutes of morphing group-catharsis as spiritual for the listener as it must have been for the musicians.
As prolific as these players are in the recording studio, both on their own recordings, as producers, and on hundreds of records as supporting cast, capturing Eraldo Bernocchi, Toshinori Kondo, Bill Laswell, Hamid Drake, DJ Disc, and Aiyb Dieng in a group like Charged live on stage with such quality in live-recording techniques is simply a special musical occasion that should not be taken lightly for the discerning jazz fan in 2002.