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mjzee

Charlie Hunter Corner

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Thanks to Steve(thelil) for the impetus for starting this corner. I've been listening to a lot of Charlie Hunter lately. He's the type of musician that in an earlier era would be praised, followed and discussed. Stylistically, he's all over the place (in a good way), everything from hard electronica to reggae, funk, power-trio rock jazz, and straight-ahead jazz. As Wikipedia notes, "Hunter plays custom-made seven and eight-string guitars, on which he simultaneously plays basslines, rhythm guitar, and solos." But it never sounds gimmicky; it's always in service of the music (and maybe to save the cost of a bassist). Besides the TJ Kirk sides, here are some others I like (though the albums with Bobby Previte can get very noisy):

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I am, or used to be, a fan. But after awhile I kinda lost interest, maybe the obnoxious song titl;es had something to do with it.

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I remember being in Quebec City years ago - coincidentally at the the time of their summer music festival - and stumbling on a stage at which Hunter was playing. I'd never even heard of him before and was blown away - having never heard or seen someone play like that. I picked up everything he put out until shortly after he left Blue Note. Around that time, my life took a nosedive and quite frankly I lost interest in a lot of things - including jazz and music in general. After I turned the corner, Hunter is one guy I apparently lost track of. I checked out AMG and listened to some samples - nice stuff. I'll have to see what I can pick up. I like that he's all over the place stylistically and count me among those that enjoy the quirky titles. Off to half.com...

Edited by Ed Swinnich

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I recommend his second Blue Note CD Ready, Set, Shango. Features an excellent tenor/alto sax quartet playing some good material. It's a shame the young alto player Calder Spanier was killed in an auto accident.

Also love the Bing Bing Bing Bing CD. I lost track after the Analog Playground CD.

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I think all of his stuff is pretty strong. I once saw him in a group in which he didn't get an organ type sound from his guitar and they sounded almost like a straight on 60's heavy rock jam band and it was much less distinctive and more generic. I don't know if this corresponds to a particular cd so I know i'm not being real helpful. By contrast, a CD of his that worked surprisingly well was Natty Dread in which he covered an entire Bob Marley/Wailers album in his own distinctive style. I saw that band too and their take on No Woman No Cry actually brought tears to my eyes! He phrased the guitar in a way where it actually reminded me of singing. Very lyrical. (pun recognized but not originally intended!)

Edited by steve(thelil)

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Listening to Ready, Set, Shango right now. This is the band I heard in Quebec City years ago. Great stuff. I did not know that Spanier had died. Bummer.

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If I recall correctly, Spanier died while still in Charlie's band, and he was then replaced by John Ellis.

(I just googled "Charlie Hunter John Ellis" and found that a "John Ellis" in fact exists and that a guy by that name has played with Charlie Hunter at one time or another. That's confirmation enough for me to mark my statement "correct" :))

Edited by steve(thelil)

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I think 'the seven string guitar/hammond one man band sound' works against him in some ways. If you take out the quirkiness of all that, you're left with a fairly generic - but well schooled - mainstream jazzer. Not that there's anything wrong with that. He first came to notice over here for his work with Michael Franti...who I think only White people in Australia listen to anymore :D

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I think 'the seven string guitar/hammond one man band sound' works against him in some ways. If you take out the quirkiness of all that, you're left with a fairly generic - but well schooled - mainstream jazzer. Not that there's anything wrong with that. He first came to notice over here for his work with Michael Franti...who I think only White people in Australia listen to anymore :D

If taking away the organ sound makes him a fairly generic mainstream jazzer, how is it working against him?

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Hunter plays an 8 string guitar. If you "take away" (how does one accomplish this hypothetical ?) any musician's sound and unique traits, you would end up with generic, I suppose?

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Hunter plays an 8 string guitar. If you "take away" (how does one accomplish this hypothetical ?) any musician's sound and unique traits, you would end up with generic, I suppose?

Yes. Hunter is better than that, for sure.

However once I dug into a bit of Hunter, I thought the 'Hammond Organ via guitar schtick' was not really anything more than mechanical. What I mean is, his approach basically divides the guitar between lower strings that function as extended bass line facility - while the supposed 'Larry Young' fourths angle - he takes doesn't really develop towards anything beyond the standard 'piano to guitar' compromises that any 'standard' six string tweaker is going to utilise and settle for anyway. So a George Van Eps of grease and quartal harmony he is not.

The other thing - is the chorus-y sound that supposedly apes the keyboard. I recently saw a Mike Stern masterclass over here, whereby Stern explained his own 'chorus' sound - as deployed - because he wanted to get away from the primary Guitar sound - and closer to a keyboard flow between the notes. And he believed the soft, wishy washy processed sound did this for him. Sometimes I wish these guys had just taken up keyboards and been done with it.

With someone like Metheny, I feel the processed tone is somehow critical to his actual lines and the physical dexterity of the way he plays, but for most others it is somehow diminishing.

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I'm not a musician nor someone interested in the more technical aspects of his playing above and beyond the fact that he's playing bass and lead guitar at the same time on an 8 string guitar - which I think is kind of cool and sounds hard to do. So my analysis is more straight forward - I like it or I don't. In Hunter's case - I like it.

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I think it's just a question of whether his distinctive organ like sound/tone works for you. It works for me, especially with the funky TJ Kirk stuff.

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Hunter plays an 8 string guitar. If you "take away" (how does one accomplish this hypothetical ?) any musician's sound and unique traits, you would end up with generic, I suppose?

Yes. Hunter is better than that, for sure.

However once I dug into a bit of Hunter, I thought the 'Hammond Organ via guitar schtick' was not really anything more than mechanical. What I mean is, his approach basically divides the guitar between lower strings that function as extended bass line facility - while the supposed 'Larry Young' fourths angle - he takes doesn't really develop towards anything beyond the standard 'piano to guitar' compromises that any 'standard' six string tweaker is going to utilise and settle for anyway. So a George Van Eps of grease and quartal harmony he is not.

The other thing - is the chorus-y sound that supposedly apes the keyboard. I recently saw a Mike Stern masterclass over here, whereby Stern explained his own 'chorus' sound - as deployed - because he wanted to get away from the primary Guitar sound - and closer to a keyboard flow between the notes. And he believed the soft, wishy washy processed sound did this for him. Sometimes I wish these guys had just taken up keyboards and been done with it.

With someone like Metheny, I feel the processed tone is somehow critical to his actual lines and the physical dexterity of the way he plays, but for most others it is somehow diminishing.

As far as the heavy chorus sound goes, the only player I really liked with that sound is John Scofield, and he's scaled it back in recent years. Stern and John McLaughlin seem to favor that bland heavy chorus sound. But more predictable is Stern's playing and his recordings. I grew tired of it many years ago. I was also not crazy about McLaughlin's last CD, Now Here This. It all sounds the same from beginning to end, and it's a lousy recording/mix job.

On the contrary, Metheny sounds great on the new Book Of Angels CD. I find his own compositions more interesting than Zorn's, but at least he's still adventurous and trying new things.

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Saw this new release on eMusic today. 5 Hank Williams tunes.

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Is Ropeadope the label that Hunter owns or curates or whatever it is they do with labels these days?

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Ropeadope was good when Sexmob were on the label.

Liked Hunter's early stuff and TJ Kirk CD is great, but his later stuff after the Marley album, in fact on that CD, I lost interest and haven't been back since.

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I like some of his stuff so take him in small doses and not very often any more.

After I moved to the Bay Area saw him a lot, and his playing is very limited by the gimmicky nature of it all, from the instruments to the technique, which is unique but limited and extremely repetitive.

I like some of his stuff over the years.

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Listening now to Altitude by Hunter, Previte and Medeski. Intense, loud, and has a vibe reminiscent of John McLaughlin's Devotion. Avoid disc 2, though; it's a whole other animal.

Edited by mjzee

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I have a good number of CD's from Hunter.

It's one of those imstances where I look at the shelf and nod my head because I like it all. But then again, there are three titles that for me stand out from the crowd, and that I play most often.

In no particular order - the first one is the self-titled "Charlie Hunter". Fans of Ready Steady and recordings in that era will like this one. It has strong melodies and some great playing by all involved. The second is "Duo". Leon Parker joins in, playing a very small drum set. It's sparse and a little more edgy, but not so far out that it'll prove to be bothersome for some. The third - and frankly my most played - is "Latitude" by Groundruther, which is a collaboration with Bobby Previte with a rotating third person. This one is farther out, and may take time to get to grips with (unless avant garde is your thing, because then it's easy stuff). He made another great disc with Previte, "Come in Red Dog, This Is Tango Leader", which I also highly recommend if you like the more experimental work.

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His trio with Curtis Fowlkes and Bobby Previte is appearing nearby tonight. I haven't heard any of his music, just the name is familiar.

http://narrowscenter.ticketfly.com/event/1463117-charlie-hunter-trio-fall-river/

I could listen to an album on-line, to give me an idea, but there are so many of them. Which one would you recommend to help me decide whether to go or not?

 

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