Saturday, January 15, 2011

StLJN Saturday Video Showcase:
Catching up with Charlie Hunter

This week, let's take a look at some video clips featuring guitarist Charlie Hunter's trio, who will be in St. Louis next week to perform Wednesday through Saturday at Jazz at the Bistro.

If you're already with familiar with Hunter, you know that his distinctive technique on the seven-string guitar lets him play both bass lines and guitar parts simultaneously, and that he frequently changes musicians, band configurations, and material in an effort to keep things fresh.

Hunter's current touring ensemble features Eric Kalb on drums and Michael Williams on bass trumpet, an instrument not often seen outside of concert bands and orchestras. The basic concept is similar in some ways to his drums/guitar/sax trios of the pass, but the substitution of a brass instrument for the reed definitely adds a new wrinkle. Williams' bass trumpet sounds a bit like a valve trombone in spots, and, as you'll hear in these clips, he also uses different mutes skillfully to produce a variety of timbres.

The first shows Hunter, Kalb and Williams at a gig last April in Fort Lauderdale, FL, playing their version of the old chestnut "Ain't We Got Fun," a song Hunter recorded on his recent solo CD Public Domain. As the title suggests, the songlist for that CD was drawn from old standards and pop tunes with lapsed copyrights. However, this performance is about as far from a historical recreation as one could get, and it's a good example of how Hunter has re-imagined those familiar songs.

Down below are live versions of two tunes from Hunter's previous CD, Gentlemen, I Neglected to Inform You That You Will Not Be Getting Paid, which saw the guitarist working with a three-piece brass section, and seems to have provided some inspiration for his current trio. "High Pockets and a Fanny Pack" is taken from the same gig as the first selection, while "You Look Good In Orange" is from a show last year in Dayton, OH.

The final clip comes from a concert Hunter did in December at the Mystic Theater in Petaluma, CA. It's basically a solo guitar piece, and it's included here because it's a nice example of Hunter playing in a way that recalls a more traditional jazz guitar style, but with his distinctive touch in it to illustrate the connections between the two.

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