Following up and developing on the concept begun with 8-string guitarist Charlie Hunter's first meeting with percussionist Bobby Previte, '03's Come in Red Dog, This is Tango Leader , the two artists form Groundtruther, a project with three proposed records to be released on the cutting edge Thirsty Ear Label, each with a different guest to round things out to a trio. If the first record, Latitude , is any indication, this is clearly like nothing we've ever heard from these artists before.
Sure, there were certain precedents set on Come in Red Dog, This is Tango Leader , specifically a looser improvisational spirit and use of samples and various electronics, courtesy of Previte. But while Red Dog still sounded as though it would fit comfortably in Hunter's existing body of work, Latitude takes things a step further into jazztronica territory, with an approach that is far less about specific playing and more about creating texture and ambience.
Take the first track, "North Pole." Reverse-loop processed orchestra and electronic shots create a foreboding backdrop over which Hunter dabbles with a dark, more-or-less repetitive motif. The track builds its sense of warning, with Osby finally appearing, his alto also altered to sound as if it were coming from a different place. Arctic Circle creates a pulsing rhythm courtesy of Previte's techno-sounding percussion and Hunter's signature organ emulation, albeit once again heavily processed. In fact, the entire set is heavily affected, giving Hunter, in particular, a broader sonic palette than usual.
While there are accessible grooves to be found throughout Latitude , the entire affair has a more experimental feel. Fans of Craig Taborn's recent Junk Magic will find much to like about this record, although Taborn's disk clearly rested more on the avant side of the equation. Hunter, Previte and Osby manage to create a blend that is evolutionary yet easy on the ears. Hunter's penchant for melodicism and catchy rhythm shines through, regardless of how ambient or, at times, jagged, Previte's musical contribution is. Osby's work seems, at times, to be a little overwhelmed by the joyful noise Hunter and Previte create, but he's still a crucial part of the melange.
Skirting the more experimental side of some of Thirsty Ear's other jazztronica recordings while maintaining a foot in the groove-happy work that Hunter has become known for, Groundtruther and Latitude represent a significant evolution for Hunter and Previte, and bode well for other recordings in the trilogy.
Visit Charlie Hunter , Bobby Previte and Greg Osby on the web.
Personnel: Charlie Hunter: 8-string guitar; Bobby Previte: drums and electronics; Greg Osby: alto