Charlie Hunter Trio: Copperopolis (2006)
This followup to 2004's Friends Seen and Unseen finds Hunter with drummer Derrek Phillips and saxophonist John Ellis exploring a rock-oriented sound. The music still grooves, but with more bite and grit, marked by harder rhythms and edgier riffs. Though the sound is indeed heavier this is not headbanger material with flaming guitars and smoking stagesrather, Hunter's own brand of jazz, blues, funk and now rock.
This is immediately evident on "Cueball Bobbin' as the guitarist surprises with a nasty (but sweet) tone from his eight-string axe as Phillips pounds a mean backbeat. The sound is circa-'60s and '70s rock (a la Cream and Clapton) with John Ellis alternating between horns, Wurlitzer, and melodica on various tracks. Hunter cranks out his trademarked guitar sound playing bass, rhythm, and solo sections simultaneously with organ pedal soundsnow augmented with occasional overdrive.
Things grind down to a smooth texture on "Frontman with fuzz-toned guitar and lithe keyboards in a mellow flow that shows the trio's range. Always playing with soul, they pursue a gutsy feel with touches of the street and urban blues. One slight criticism is that the music doesn't show the crunchy side enough. Pieces like "Blue Sock" are solid, but all too familiar; and "The Pursuit Package," a funky guitar/drum snippet, is abruptly cut off at a little over two minutes.
But the tight trio brings uninhibited and enjoyable performances on the opium-induced "Drop the Rock," with Ellis laying down some sweet bass clarinet sounds as Phillips provides a percussion canopy. The recording ends with a nice interpretation of Monk's "Think of One"an all-out swinging jam session with slaying solos.
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Track Listing: Cueball Bobbin'; Frontman; Swamba Redux; Copperopolis; Blue Sock; The Pursuit Package; A Street Fight Could Break Out; Drop the Rock; Think of One.
Personnel: Charlie Hunter: eight-string guitar; John Ellis: tenor saxophone, bass clarinet, Wurlitzer, melodica; Derrek Phillips: drums.