Charlie Hunter: Seven-String Samurai
CH: Yeah, I don't think about that so much. I don't try to like dazzle people, because that's a dead end. It's not going to go anywhere if you're not using your "super-powers" for good. But yeah, I don't know. I'd be happy to play these 200-seaters forever. I don't need to go be fabulous, I don't need to go on TV, I don't have any interest in it and the culture that promotes it is a waste of my time... I hang out with the smartest, coolest, most interesting and ambitious people on a daily basis. And I've already been there and found it lacking, found it wanting. Right now, I'm just making a living and breaking even. I'd certainly like to do more than that ultimately. But right now, it kind of works. I mean, damn, I play instrumental, improvised music and I can make a living. To me, that's a huge accomplishment.
AAJ: What advice would you have for younger jazz musicians? There's a whole crop of jazz musicians that are growing up now and there's a renewed enthusiasm for jazz among us them.
CH: When I do hear the younger musicians, I hear a lot of like "math jazz." The younger generation, they come from generally a very specific socioeconomic background through which they've been able to go to these music schools that are very expensive. Then when you get out of these colleges, there's no work, you know? So it's kind of a failed paradigm in that respect. And it's no fault of theirs because that system doesn't exist anymore, where you come up and people beat on you and you learn how to play with depth and you learn how to put on a show. None of them know how to put on a show. And I don't mean put on a show, like a minstrel show or some corny kind of thing. I mean put on a show like connect with audience, make the bigger thing happen. It's like a mile wide and an inch deep.
There's lots of incredible concepts going on, there's lots of incredible instrumental virtuosity going on, all this really commendable stuff but at the end of the day, it ends up falling a little flat because there's no community component. The only jazz community seems to be the community of musical pedants, guys and gals who went music school and have amassed this incredibly large amount of knowledge. But it's also very myopic, and every time you go to see it, it's like going to see a recital. That's just the surface of it, though. How do you figure out what works better? How do you connect with the audience? How do you have soul?
AAJ: The older community is not there anymore is what you're saying... the people who used to beat on the younger musicians?
CH: Yeah, there's not that system of the young guys getting schooled by the older guys. They get schooled in schools. And I think that's really great for making music that is of and about jazz, but it never really moves me. I mean, I'm always as a musician impressed, but I just don't like to listen to music to be impressed as a musician. I want to go out and listen to music like everyone else does, to hear music that connects with them and puts them on a different plane, you know?
AAJ: Why do you think that older community is not there?
CH: Because they're dead. Most of them are gone, you know.
AAJ: Who used to beat on you when you were coming up as a musician?
CH: When I was coming up, it wasn't jazz guys, it was all the older kind of blues and R&B guys I was playing with, and then when I was a street-musician there were a lot of these different people that were much better than me. I mean, I didn't go to music school. I went to a little community college for theory and harmony. I used to have that as a chip on my shoulder, but now I thank my stars that I was able to have that wide variety of experiences, because it made me the musician I am.
AAJ: So what would be your advice be to these young people who are coming out of these schools?
CH: What you do always needs to extend beyond the culture of musicians. If the music you make is only made within the culture of musicians, and that is satisfying to you, then go for it. But generally I think music serves a larger purpose, it's got to be more than just that. AAJ:What is that larger purpose to you?