On the CD tray photo of Mistico, all three members of The Charlie Hunter Trio are shown laughing heartily with each other. It's an appropriate picture, given the joy they exude playing together on this CD of original music by the guitarist/bandleader, which suits the evocative cover art and album title.
The Charlie Hunter Trio sounds like the essence of easygoing right from the start as they amble into motion on the opening track "Lady!." Their deceptively casual approach belies the detail contained in the guitar and keyboard work, both up front and in the background. The presence of keyboardist Erik Deutsch makes the sound of this band a logical extension of Hunter's previous trio, where John Ellis, primarily a saxophonist, spent increasing time on keyboards late in the group's run.
"Speakers Built-In" further illustrates the informal approach to recording of Mistico, as there are no true solos per se. One instrument or another merely ascends to prominence while the other two remain in full interaction with each other as well as their peer up front. Hunter modified his signature guitar from eight strings to seven for this project, and that adaptation also alters they way he plays. The blues becomes more obvious in his lead work, while effects such as the wah-wah on this cut sound fresh yet of a piece with similarly earthy intimations of his earlier work.
Mistico consists of ten comparatively short (five to eight minute) tracks that represent Charlie Hunter's respect for the compositional aspect of jazz. The San Francisco Bay native does nothing to deny the elated sense of freedom that comes with improvising, however; there is an almost imperceptible flow in the trio's playing as it moves into the moody languor of "Estranged," where, again, a blues flavor rises to the surface. But the guitarist's inclination to rock also imbues his comrades on "Balls," with a melody line readily reminiscent of the Rolling Stones' "The Last Time," as drummer Simon Lott pounds with appropriate panache here as he does throughout the CD.
"Wizard Sleeve" hearkens back to Hunter's previous work, mainly in the trio's tight syncopation and sharp interplay, with the rhythm rolling along as naturally as the melody before the performance floats to a stop. "Drop A Dime" is feels both new and old for Hunter, as the chunky rhythm becomes a junction point for the trio to intertwine before they separate and rejoin once establishing their respective patterns.
Deep bass lines resound around beats and tuneful themes on Mistico, all of which come through clearly in the mix, thanks to Charlie Hunter and Scott Harding's production. Dynamics and texture, as introduced here, would seem to provide this new trio with much fodder for exploration as they evolve together.
Personnel: Charlie Hunter: 7-string guitar; Simon Lott: drums; Erik Deutsch: piano, Fender Rhodes; CasioTone.