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Cirque Du Soleil
(Cirque Du Soleil)
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Patricia Barber
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Cirque Du Soleil
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Jim Pearce
“Why I Haven't Got You”
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Ralph Towner
Time Line
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Anoushka Shankar

Amos Lee
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Julius Curcio
"American Pie"
Alligator Shoes
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"Come Alive"
Changing Into Me
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Spotlights [Issue # 20 ]
Charlie Hunter: Growing Up

By Ken Micallef

Guitarist Charlie 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 hipster’s 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 bass’n’guitar effects for a refreshingly direct approach. He still jams like mad (as heard on 2004’s Friends Seen and Unseen), but now you can hear that better than ever.

“It is not that I didn’t 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 Hunter’s past work, as if John Scofield were playing a background shindig for a Halloween party.

“I don’t 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 Brooklyn’s 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 it’s supposed to go in naturally. That has always been my course anyway, it is a slow one. The guitar is a hard instrument!”


Growing Up Charlie Hunter Copperopolis

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