Something of a companion piece released same day as his new trio audio outing Friends Seen & Unseen
, this DVD was recorded in winter of 2002 by 1k Studios when idiosyncratic guitarist Charlie Hunter was still working with his Quintet that recorded last year's Right Now Move
. Its semi-animated graphics format conveys more than a little of the whimsy and infectious spirit in the eight-string guitarist's music, even as the bios of the individual band members and production credits thoroughly cover the academic side of this project. The package would benefit ever so slightly from a booklet with a similar design including a cross-section of the photo gallery plus the track listing, but on the whole, this is a tremendously entertaining, thoroughly engrossing piece.
The segment featuring Charlie solo is a great opportunity to see how he plays his custom-designed guitar. You have to marvel at what a self-deprecating musician this Bay-area native is, but never more so than on "Recess," where he refuses to show off or flaunt his technique in any way. Of course, whenever anyone in the band solos, it's in service of the song, like "Mestre Tata," and everyone in the Quintet enjoys playing together and hearing each other play, as on "Oakland." Watching Charlie derive deeply soulful, earthy sensations from his Novax guitar-a pristine thing of beauty in contrast to so much vintage, weathered equipment-rekindles the urge to call for the reissue of his limited edition, now out of print solo album.
Technical setup on the DVD allows not only the choice of Dolby 5.1 or stereo-where a panoramic mix reveals the breadth of textures from the drums (Derek Phillips) to saxophone (John Ellis) to chromatic harmonica) Gregoire Moret to trombone (the venerable Curtis Fowlkes)-but an interactive option allowing you to select varying shots of the band members during their set; for those who love singling out who to watch and who to listen to, this is a real treat (you may be well into watching it before you realize not one of them ever mugs for the nine cameras). It's a shame Hunter was forced to trim the five-piece band to the trio with whom he recorded his most recent album, because the potential of this lineup, as suggested on "Changui," had a lot of room for exploration. As on "Try," they could sound like an utterly traditional jazz band one minute, then turn into a wholly unconventional, impossible-to-label unit the next
So it is that anyone who saw this band live will cherish Right Now Live , but we should all consider ourselves fortunate to have this group of Charlie Hunter's captured in its glory on this DVD.
Related reviews at AAJ:
Friends Seen and Unseen (2004)
Right Now Move (2003)
Visit Charlie Hunter on the web at www.charliehunter.com .