Hunter is truly the man of a thousand faces. Back in the late 90s/early
00s he was the Blue Note poster boy for Boho funky style.
Hunter made music
with a gnarly instrument that boasted multiple strings beyond the standard six
as guests like Norah Jones and Kurt Elling turned his albums into a Manhattan
hipsters family affair.
These days, Charlie plays a pared down 7-string, but his gigs are just as three-dimensional:
sidemen work with too many faces to mention, collaborations with Garage-A-Trois
and Groundtruther (with drummer Bobby Privete), teaching work, and his latest
(but not so new) project, The Charlie Hunter Trio. Named after a dead tech California
mining town, Copperopolis is where Hunter lets it all hang out, and where his
trio gets jacked up.
This album is about evolving the sound, Hunter explains from Mendocino
College, where he is the artist in residence. I came to a point a couple
years ago when I thought, I am really tired of my sound. Why am I playing
with this guitar sound? The guitar is an awesome instrument with all this
guitar vernacular. I need to go back to that and playing the kind of sounds that
I liked when I was a teenager. I feel really good about the sounds on the record
even though it was recorded was very simply.
Tracked entirely live at a small studio in pre-flood New Orleans, Copperopolis
shows Hunter sharing the stage more than commanding it. With drummer Derrek Phillips
and tenor saxophonist, bass clarinetist, Wurlitzer, and melodica player, John
Ellis, Hunter forgoes his usual bassnguitar effects for a refreshingly
direct approach. He still jams like mad (as heard on 2004s Friends Seen
and Unseen), but now you can hear that better than ever.
It is not that I didnt like my sound, Hunter comments, it
was about evolving out of it. I just came to a point where I felt that I really
wanted to let the guitar be a guitar. When you spend so much time dealing with
this jazz with a capital J concept as a guitar player, you will always be on the
outside. What I like about guitar is how many cool sounds you can get out of it
using organic, analog sounds. So this was a natural progression.
And progress it does: Swamba Redux sounds like Fellini soundtrack
composer Nina Rota writing for a blues bashing trio. Copperopolis
is low-slung and gritty, like a burlesque blues for naughty middle-American housewives.
Blue Sock and The Pursuit Package have flavorings of Hunters
past work, as if John Scofield were playing a background shindig for a Halloween
I dont think my style is minimal, Hunter thinks aloud. I
can actually get to a lot more music now. I think it is more about gestures. I
am trying to make larger gestures that take place over a longer period of time.
More macro gestures than micro gestures. I am trying to get more lyrical and more
sound-oriented and not worry so much about playing linear stuff that is super
involved. I just tried that for so long and I was never very good at it.
Calling New Jersey home after a long stint in Brooklyns trendy Williamsburg
hood, Charlie Hunter has grown up. His home is pure suburban, his pets are dogs
and goldfish, and appropriately, his guitar is more normal than not. This guitarist
has put away childish things . . .
It is an evolution where I am taking the time to see what my instrument
is supposed to do and what I am supposed to be playing on it, rather than trying
to be a guitar and a bass player, or trying to be jazz or this or that. I am just
letting my music go in the direction that its supposed to go in naturally.
That has always been my course anyway, it is a slow one. The guitar is a hard