Adorned with the kind of facetiously sardonic title he's applied to a few recent records, Charlie Hunter's latest album nevertheless documents further changes in his ever-restless musical persona. Not only is this, his seventeenth-plus album as a leader, on a new label, but he enlists a new accompanist and, perhaps most significant of all, returns to playing the eight-string guitar.
Recorded live in a studio in Hudson, New York, on Everybody Has a Plan Until They Get Punched in the Mouth
(quote courtesy Mike Tyson), Charlie Hunter returns to his quartet by adding Kirk Knuffke
on cornet to the trio including drummer Bobby Previte
and trombonist Curtis Fowlkes
who recorded Let the Bells Ring On
(Self Produced, 2015). Within the brightly colored album graphics there's a noticeable paucity of the practical credits of the sessions and product thereof, but that's only emblematic of an artist who's wholly focused on performance, in this case to the minor detriment of recording site, engineers et. al.
In fact, Charlie Hunter concentrates on his music to the exclusion of cultural fashion or the trappings of celebrity. This, in turn, accounts for a confidence that fosters minimal recording time to produce tracks such as "Leave Him Lay," yet still fosters a natural momentum within the musicianship and, by extension, the recordings. For instance, "Who Put You Behind the Wheel," radiates the jaunty air of New Orleans
without the often self-conscious trappings of homages to NOLA.
That number also reminds there's been an undercurrent of blues in many of Charlie Hunter's past albums and it's more overt on this outing in numbers like "(Looks Like) Someone Got Ahead of Schedule on Their Medication;" this particular track is also one more place where the room between the instruments is virtually as important as the sounds the four musicians make with them. The additional continuity of Bobby Previte's is hard to underestimate as well, because his history with Hunter, in the Groundtruther series, Coalition of the Willing
(Ropeadope, 2006) and beyond, allows for ordered, intuitive interaction.
The drummer's easygoing rapport with Hunter's allows them to render an accessible style fresh because they won't overthink it. Thus, they inject the proper bounce into "Latin For Travelers." The title song here represents another one of the guitarist's steadfast virtues: a willingness to support his bandmates. Pithy horn punctuation leaves more than a little room for the low notes Hunter plays to echo in the air, which in turn allows Knuffke and Fowlkes to play around them, Meanwhile, Previte just lays back in order to maintain only subliminal rhythm.
An altogether spooky air emanates from that cut and similarly tangible atmosphere prevails throughout most of Everybody Has a Plan...
, to the extent that some music lovers may find it relaxed to a fault. There are enough brisk intervals here though, and they are so arresting precisely because this Charlie Hunter-led quartet leans forward into its music, imperceptibly but decisively, just as the frontman progresses along his artistic path.