Charlie Hunter: Renaissance Man of Jazz

Doug Collette By

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Groovemeister Charlie Hunter is one of the most innovative musicians in contemporary jazz right now and one of the most prolific as well. Not only does the 8-string guitarist front his own band---currently a trio, formerly a quintet—he also tours regularly with Garage a Trois. In addition, in 2004 he initiated a series of recordings with drummer extraordinaire Bobby Previte: dubbing themselves Groundtruther, the concept entails the duo playing with a different third musician on each of three albums.

Accordingly, Hunter is now on two albums released almost simultaneously. The first is Longitude with Groundtruther, this time featuring DJ Logic, the other a project with Garage a Trois that is actually the soundtrack to a film called Outré Mer. While on the surface all the CDs may seem to have in common is Charlie, there is more than a little continuity which itself is a testament to the man's forceful musical personality.

Garage A Trois
Outré Mer

Outré Mer finds Garage a Trois—originally a trio, now a quartet—sublimating some of its wilder urges, as displayed on its debut Emphaziser, for the sake of cinema. As such, it stands as a somewhat logical progression for the band, comprised of drummer Stanton Moore, saxophonist Skerik, percussionist Mike Dillon plus Hunter. For his part Charlie is emblematic of the group's uncanny ability to mesh rhythm and melody so that each is virtually indistinguishable from the other. On the title song, for instance, thick lines in the lower register merge with warmer beats.

While GAT has too playful a personality to ignore, they refuse to subsist as mere background music or become just lightly entrancing. "Bear No Hair is so insistent you want to dance, while the muted likes of "Amanjiwo give respite from the rest of its highly rhythmic surroundings. It is very aptly placed at the conclusion to the disc.

Charlie Hunter-Bobby Previte/Groundtruther
Thirsty Ear

In contrast, Groundtruther's Longitude, if not exactly an assault per se, definitely shakes you to attention. Logic's turntabling provides both backdrop and glue to a sonic palette consisting more of riffs than extended lines as the nervous energy shared by Hunter and Previte manifests itself. With the latter utilizing electronic percussion as much or more than acoustic, Charlie is also freed to enact effects on his custom guitar, so that fuzz, wah-wah and more interweave with the clang and scratch around him on tracks like "Tycho Brahe, for a distinctly metropolitan (as opposed to GAT's cosmopolitan) atmosphere.

Groundtruther definitely makes greater use of the recording studio than its counterparts(not surprisingly since Garage a Trois is designed more as a live improvisational unit). It'd be interesting to hear the two bands meld together, perhaps with Previte as producer, but for now it's a pleasure to hear Charlie Hunter unleash a veritable torrent of guitar sounds, since he otherwise spends much time supporting his co-musicians(and obviously enjoying that role. In addition, the blues texture in his soloing that surfaces only intermittently (and then usually with his own bands) is prominent when he steps out on "Dead Reckoning.

Like Outré Mer, Longitude is best listened to as a whole, if only because, with the tracks fairly brief, the momentum hits only through continuous listening. It's safe to say seeing either of these bands live would present distinctly different impressions than you might take away from hearing the discs. It'd be no less rewarding, however, since both Groundtruther and Garage a Trois, with Charlie Hunter the significant link, have the collective presence of mind to bring an audience into their world fully and completely, perhaps even if they're not ready to go there.

Visit Garage a Trois, Charlie Hunter, Bobby Previte and DJ Logic on the web.

Track and personnel listings

Outré Mer

Tracks: Outre Mer; Bear No Hair; The Machine; Etienne; Merpati; The Dream; Antoine; Circus; Needles; The Dwarf; Amanjiwo

Personnel: Charlie Hunter: (guitar); Stanton Moore: (drums); Skerik: (sax, keys); Mike Dillon: (vibes, percussion)


Tracks: Transit of Venus; Tycho Brahe; March 1741, Cape Horn; Course Made Good; Dead Reckoning; Medicean Stars; Jupiter Mask; H-4; Back-Quadrant; Epherimedes; Prime Meridian; South Heading

Personnel: Charlie Hunter: (guitar); Bobby Previte: (acoustic and electronic drums); DJ Logic: (turntables)

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