Charlie Hunter Quartet at the Beachland
Talk about a blast from the past, the hardwood floors and vintage décor of Cleveland’s Beachland Ballroom give it a retro aura that the young alternative crowd surely must embrace. Lately the club has been booking blues shows and it was perfectly logical to bring in Charlie Hunter for the purposes of expanding their audience further, taking into account his crossover appeal. Even with over bloated bass that often rumbled the floor, the acoustics weren’t bad and they actually seemed to improve as the standing room only crowd began to fill up the hall. Cleveland-based quartet Candiamore warmed things up for about a half an hour to no great result. The jam band’s set consisted of funky backbeat material that was not particularly memorable, a fact made all the more conspicuous by a lack of melody lines or hooks.
Despite an opening set that was cut prematurely short, ex-T.J. Kirk/Heroes of Hiphoprisy guitarist Charlie Hunter and his quartet held forth with an intoxicating brew that was decidedly danceable. While the greenhorns in the audience might have wondered where such a full sound was coming from, glancing for a bassist or keyboardist, seasoned followers know that Hunter is able to simultaneously construct bass lines, harmony riffs, and lead melodies on a custom made 8-string guitar and therein lies his appeal. With pyrotechnic displays and groove-based originals that made the most of his chameleon-like sound, Hunter ran bluesy single note riffs and created the clamor of a B3 organ. Shuffles and Latin mambos provided the fodder for his material and he segued from tune to tune, pacing things extremely well.
Tenor saxophonist John Elis proved to be an intrepid soloist, preaching over stop-time passages and walking the bar, while drummer Stephen Chopek and percussionist Chris Lovejoy provided the rhythmically dense underbrush. Starting with a lengthy jam on Abdullah Ibrahim’s “African River,” the second set took a change of direction due south. By the time of their encore, the entire band was into the percussive mix for a Brazilian samba that reached bacchanalian proportions.