Charlie Hunter: Friends Seen and Unseen & Latitude

Sean Patrick Fitzell By

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Charlie Hunter
Friends Seen and Unseen

Still mining inspiration from his relocation to New York, 8-string guitar wizard Charlie Hunter returns to the trio format for his latest release Friends Seen and Unseen. With Hunter's unique style of playing bass lines and guitar melodies simultaneously, it often sounds like a quartet, but the trio allows for more open spaces. Hunter and partners, saxophonist John Ellis and drummer Derrek Phillips, relish the opportunity to alternately hunker down in and float around the irresistible rhythms. The result is a set of loose, but never sloppy, feel-good romps that percolate with energy while exploring the wide terrain of groove music. The off-beat, start-and-stop movement of "One For the Kelpers" gets things started, boasting an adventurous Hunter solo that builds in intensity as Phillips swells the groove and Ellis comps. The up-beat "Freedom" offers a saxophone line oblique to Hunter's lines, for effective counterpoint. The leader solos over a bubbly shuffle groove, before Phillips adds a lilting drum solo that hints at the song's melodic movement. Ellis adds a growling tone to the tight unison melody of the leisurely "Lulu's Crawl" and bleats an old-timey tenor solo, with note choices approaching dissonance. His flute shifts tones for "Darkly," sounding airy over the subdued playing of Hunter and Phillips. Hunter stretches out with a gnarly sound over Phillips' up-tempo, burbling drums on "Running in Fear...," and plays a more traditional blues on "Eleven Bars for Gandhi," Drawing influences from '70s funk, New Orleans second-line drumming, and the classic Hammond B-3 merchants, this trio certainly grooves. By shifting tempos and styles between (and within) tunes, they ensure that there is no sound-alike repetition. Instead, the trio offers an original statement that should leave you smiling-or maybe even dancing.

Thirsty Ear

Experimenting further with trios, Hunter teams with drummer Bobby Previte in Groundtruther, an ongoing project that features revolving guest musicians to complete the trio. Moving beyond in-the-pocket grooves, on Latitude , their first CD of a planned trilogy, saxophonist Greg Osby joins the pair to explore textural soundscapes. "North Pole" opens with sparse guitar and swelling electronics from Previte, who kaleidoscopically colors the music with processed drum sounds and samples that add electronica flavor without monotonous repetition: for instance, his grace notes and accents on "Arctic Circle" and "Equator." On the former, Hunter's organ-like guitar dominates, as Osby's serpentine sax winds around Previte's groove. "40th Parallel" receives some wordless vocalizations and "Tropic of Capricorn" finds Osby muting his horn to add to the exotic blend. The tunes on Latitude build cooperatively, without flashy solos, for another engaging entry to Thirsty Ear's Blue Series exploration of technology and modern improvisation.

Friends Seen and Unseen

Tracks: 1. One for the Kelpers (6:32) 2. Freedom Tickler (5:41) 3. Lulu's Crawl (6:42) 4. Darkly (6:57) 5. Soweto's Where It's At (6:23) 6. Running in Fear from Imaginary Assailants (3:43) 7. Eleven Bars for Gandhi (6:57) 8. Bonus Round (3:57) 9. My Son the Hurricane (4:43) 10. Moore's Alphabet (5:22).
Personnel: John Ellis: Flute, Bass Clarinet, Tenor Saxophone; Charlie Hunter: 8-String Guitar; Derrek Phillips: Drums.


Tracks: 1. North Pole (3:09); 2. Arctic Circle (5:20); 3. 40th Parallel (4:26); 4. Horse Latitudes North (1:54); 5. Tropic of Cancer (3:33); 6. Equator (6:34); 7. Tropic of Capricorn (2:08); 8. Horse Latitudes South (3:34); 9. Tropic of Calms (3:57); 10. Antarctic Circle (8:53); 11. South Pole (4:09).
Personnel: Charlie Hunter: 8-String Guitar; Greg Osby: Alto Sax; Bobby Previte: Drums, Electronics; Kate Previte: Sampled Vocals.


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