Jazz Is For The Birds: An Aviary In Song
Guitarist Charlie Hunter has been all over the map during his career, with different ensembles, projects and instrumental configurations, but he has consistently been an inspiring presence with his mastery of the 8-and 7-string guitar. Hunterwho has performed as part of T.J. Kirk, covered Bob Marley, and played with killer bands like Groundtruther and Go Homeis widely viewed as a gateway artist, connecting the jam band scene to jazz.
His connection to rhythm and groove has been a key element in virtually every one of his projects, and Return Of The Candyman (Blue Note, 1998) is no exception. This albumwith billing extended to Charlie Hunter & Pound For Poundpaired Hunter up with vibraphone phenom Stefon Harris. Drummer, and frequent collaborator Scott Amendola, along with percussionist John Santos, rounded out this quartet, which thrived on catchy grooves and instantly appealing melodies. While plenty of noteworthy performances take shape on this album, the oddest inclusion, a cover of "Fly Like An Eagle" from the Steve Miller Band, is actually one of the most enjoyable.
On his website, Hunter explains how this particular track came to be:
"We were at a gig in North Hampton and we said we would take requests from the audience. And someone requested 'Fly Like and Eagle' and [John Coltrane's] 'Giant Steps.' Both are just preposterous requests. So we decided to do both of them at the same time, or in one arrangement. And I started doing it and realized it's a pretty good tune for what it is. The way we played it was ironic or somethingplaying it close to the original. Scott put that go-go beat on top of it. So we said, 'Why not?' Steve Miller is the corniest motherfucker ever," says Hunter. "But you know his production was killing. His guitar playing was really fucking good. And his rhythm section on that cut is killing. That is badass. I remember listening to that on my transistor radio when I was eight years old and being blown away, especially be the intro."
Once again, inspiration came from an odd place, but this song reflects the general spirit and vibe that's spread across the whole album. Amendola and Santos dig in behind Hunter's take on the melody, Harris inserts the "Time Keeps On Slippin....'" melodic fragments into their rightful space and vibraphone and guitar work together, providing hip, though understated, comping for one another as the quartet jams their way through this classic rock composition.
For the final section of this edition of Old, New, Borrowed and Blue, we look at a video that is the ultimate conference of the birds. Coleman Hawkins, along with Lester Young, is recognized as one of the two major influences on the large majority of tenor saxophonists that came after them. While one of Hawkins nicknames was "Bean," "Hawk" was the other one word title bestowed upon this musical giant.
While jazz video of the great Charlie Parker is scarce, to say the least, one of the treasures that's available for viewing (see the bottom of this feature) is a clip where "Hawk" and "Bird" appear together. While the piece is not a blues per se, both men dig deep and imbue "ballade" with a deep blues feeling. Although two minutes and fifty seconds of music, with both men taking turns and never playing at one, is more of a teaser than an all out performance, just having the opportunity to hear and see both men performing is a historical treasure worth watching. Two birds have never sung as sweetly as they do here.
Stay tune for more Old, New, Borrowed and Blue.
Page 1, Charlie Parker: William P. Gottlieb
Page 1, Stan Getz: Jos l Knaepen
Page 1, Chiara Civello: Goio Villanueva
Page 2, Charlie Hunter: Jose Horna
Page 2, Coleman Hawkins: Courtesy of Concord Music Group