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Charlie Hunter Trio: Mistico

Chris May By

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On Mistico, Charlie Hunter finally, after a couple of near misses, gets in touch with his inner rock guitarist. The disc's immediate predecessors—Copperopolis (Ropeadope, 2006) and Longitude (Thirsty Ear, 2005)—inhabited similarly full-on visceral territory, but here those albums' funk quotients are reduced to practically zero in favor of dirty, confrontational, rock 'n' roll. Nothing on Mistico is on the one. It's all on the two and four. It ain't bad so much as it's nasty.



It's simple, lo-fi music, and we're told that most tracks were recorded in one or two takes, without any charts. There's only one ballad, "Estranged," with the rest in the main consisting of greasy mid-tempo guitar riffs bounced off fat drum backbeats. Uncluttered, rhythmically and harmonically unsophisticated, but always flowing, and played with total conviction. Simple in the best sense of the word.



It's also post-modern, in the best sense of that word, with Hunter's singular, twisted guitar textures and Erik Deutsch's inventive keyboard sonorities mashed up with a host of rock and electric blues references going back over thirty years. Heliotropic psychedelic flashbacks figure large in the schema, in Deutsch's playing and in Hunter's too, and the leader's 7-string guitar (he's recently had the eighth string removed and the neck shaved down) sometimes sounds more like a revved up Hammond B3 or Mellotron than a string instrument.



From back in the day I hear, or imagine, keyboard adventurer Keith Emerson with the Nice, the Doors, guitarists George Harrison and John Lennon rocking out on The White Album (Apple, 1968), bluesman Buddy Guy making his guitar weep with pleasure. From more recently, ZZ Top and Lynyrd Skynrd. Emerson sometimes plunged a nine-inch Bowie knife into his keyboard, producing a sustained wailing dissonance and, more importantly, striking a no-nonsense theatrical attitude. That pretty much sums up the tenor of Mistico.



Some of Hunter's original listeners—if they're still listening to him, which most of them probably are not—will hear Mistico as the nadir of a trajectory which started promisingly with the relatively straight-ahead Bing...Bing...Bing (Blue Note, 1995) before beginning its final groove-driven "descent" with Tales From The Analog Playground (Blue Note, 2000). I love those earlier albums myself, but I love Mistico too. We all need a little mindless boogie in our lives.


Track Listing: Lady; Speakers Built In; Estranged; Balls; Wizard Sleeve; Drop A Dime; Spoken Word; Special Shirt; Mistico; Chimp Gut.

Personnel: Charlie Hunter: 7-string guitar; Erik Deutsch: piano, Fender Rhodes, CasioTune; Simon Lott: drums.

Title: Mistico | Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Fantasy Jazz

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