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Interviews

Charlie Hunter: Seven-String Samurai

By Published: November 9, 2009
The record companies liked the fact that there were a lot of guys my age who were really into the music and weren't just into playing straight ahead jazz. I think they saw that there was a possibility of "crossing-over" and selling that music to younger people. Which proved to be true, although not as much as the record companies had hoped for, but enough for people like me to make a living. And it's been great. I have to say that I'm having more fun now than I've ever had oddly enough. I get to play with these great musicians and I'm done with the worrying-about-being-young-and-accepted phase. I am what I am, I do what I do. Take it or leave it.

AAJ: How did you feel when you finally got the Blue Note record deal? Was that a big moment for you?

CH: Oh, it was huge. At that time, we were being courted by Warner Bros, Interscope, Blue Note and few others. In retrospect, I could have gone much bigger had I chosen one of the other labels. But I chose Blue Note because I liked all the records that were on it and they gave me a bunch of free records. And also Bruce Lundvall was a real person. He came from an era that I could really respect a lot more than the other labels we were being courted by.

AAJ: Did you see Blue Note at that time as the jazz seal of approval?

CH: Absolutely. Yeah, we wanted nothing more than that, even though we maybe didn't realize it. We were maybe too "grubby and street" for that. It's ok. Ultimately you just make your own thing.

AAJ: Have your priorities changed now that you've settled down in Montclair, NJ with the wife and kids? Is much of your time spent being a family man?

CH: Yeah, especially with the economy being what it is, there are a lot less gigs. So I find new and inventive ways of making rice and beans, you know, and take care of the kids. But I also spend a lot of time on the road like I always have, doing mostly doing duo setups now with just me and a drummer, although sometimes trio setups when it's affordable.

AAJ: Do you prefer to play smaller, more intimate venues? I mean, there was surprisingly a lot of sound from the duo sessions at Rose Live Music.

CH: Yeah, thanks. I love that kind of scene. But I'll play anywhere and I usually do. I'm at the point in my career where I'll go play a gig somewhere and have to sweep the cigarette butts off the stage and make sure everything is clean enough for a human being to inhabit. Then I'll do other gigs that are simply amazing, like somewhere in Europe, playing in a 19th century opera house. And everything in between.

AAJ: Do you prefer that duo setup?

CH: No, I mean, it's fun. I've really been working on a solo thing, to make it interesting, to not think so much. Back in the '90s, when I was beginning with the guitar and bass thing, there was a real emphasis put on difficulty, even in jazz. Can you play the odd time signatures, can you play the fast passage, can you do this bebop passage with this bass line? And I had that youthful energy where I was ready to run up a mountain with a boulder on my back and the band clenched in my teeth, you know what I mean?



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Download jazz mp3 “Ain't We Got Fun” by Charlie Hunter Download jazz mp3 “Swamba Redux” by Charlie Hunter Trio