Confessions of a self-proclaimed jazz snob. I admit it. After listening to jazz for these many years, I’ve absorbed New Orleans/swing/ bop/ post-bop/hard bop, and free-jazz. I, like many of you, have little patience for the thin veil of pop music. Give me Anthony Braxton’s equations or give me death.
After listening to Charlie Hunter’s latest disc, his sixth for Blue Note, I am reminded of whence I came. Like all baby-boomers, I was a rock-n-roller before I was this hip. Three chords and an attitude were all I needed for my favorite summer song.
The first go-round with Hunter’s latest, I was not impressed with his stripped-down lineup and unadorned music. The majority of the tunes comprise Hunter and percussionist Leon Parker or Hunter and multiple percussionists. Since Hunter’s 8-string guitar handles the bass line (sometimes sounding organ-like) I consider the music to be a trio sound. But these catchy tunes didn’t reveal themselves to me until I cranked up the volume. That’s much better; Hunter’s creation is a wall-of-percussion sound. The kind of summer sound you can shake your behind to. What a clever concept: ‘fun jazz.’ But of course he has toyed with similar concepts, recording Duo with Leon Parker last year and Natty Dread, the 1997 remake of Bob Marley’s record.
Where Hunter’s loud jazz excels over other guitar projects is this music isn’t smooth, pop, or fusion music. It shares its traits with blues, a stripping away to the essence of sound (a trademark of Leon Parker’s solo records). Take his duo performance of Thelonious Monk’s “Epistrophy.” Spun as a Latin tune, it could have been part of Marc Ribot’s Cuban project. Like Ribot, Hunter is playing party music and “Al Green” is the slow dance you’ve waited forall night to ask the redhead out.
Adding the brass on four tracks adds a thickness to the groove, but not a complexity. Apfelbaum and Roseman’s fat tone is more New Orleans than New York. Like Stanley Turrentine or Freddie Hubbard twenty years ago, Hunter is poised to hook your heart before your head on his jazz music.
Track List:Rendezvous Avec La Verite; Two For Bleu; Al Green; Nothin’ But Trouble; Cloud Splitter; Epistrophy; Flau Flau; Dersu (a slight return); Someday We’ll All Be Free.