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Charlie Hunter Trio (Guitar): Mistico

Track List

>Speakers Built In
>Wizard Sleeve
>Drop a Dime
>Spoken Word
>Special Shirt
>Chimp Gut

Album Remarks & Appraisals:

Charlie and his Trio, featuring Erik Deutsch on keyboards and Simon Lott on drums, have finished recording their next record entitled 'Mistico'. Due out on July 31st on Concord/Fantasy Records, 'Mistico' has a loose, live feel to it and explores uncharted territories for Charlie.

"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-aheadBing...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." -AllAboutJazz

"On the CD tray photo of Mistico, all three members of The Charlie Hunter Trio are shown laughing heartily with each other. It's an appropriate picture, given the joy they exude playing together on this CD of original music by the guitarist/bandleader, which suits the evocative cover art and album title.

The Charlie Hunter Trio sounds like the essence of easygoing right from the start as they amble into motion on the opening track "Lady!." Their deceptively casual approach belies the detail contained in the guitar and keyboard work, both up front and in the background. The presence of keyboardist Erik Deutsch makes the sound of this band a logical extension of Hunter's previous trio, where John Ellis, primarily a saxophonist, spent increasing time on keyboards late in the group's run.

"Speakers Built-In" further illustrates the informal approach to recording ofMistico, as there are no true solos per se. One instrument or another merely ascends to prominence while the other two remain in full interaction with each other as well as their peer up front. Hunter modified his signature guitar from eight strings to seven for this project, and that adaptation also alters they way he plays. The blues becomes more obvious in his lead work, while effects such as the wah-wah on this cut sound fresh yet of a piece with similarly earthy intimations of his earlier work.

Mistico consists of ten comparatively short (five to eight minute) tracks that represent Charlie Hunter's respect for the compositional aspect of jazz. The San Francisco Bay native does nothing to deny the elated sense of freedom that comes with improvising, however; there is an almost imperceptible flow in the trio's playing as it moves into the moody languor of "Estranged," where, again, a blues flavor rises to the surface. But the guitarist's inclination to rock also imbues his comrades on "Balls," with a melody line readily reminiscent of the Rolling Stones' "The Last Time," as drummer Simon Lott pounds with appropriate panache here as he does throughout the CD.

"Wizard Sleeve" hearkens back to Hunter's previous work, mainly in the trio's tight syncopation and sharp interplay, with the rhythm rolling along as naturally as the melody before the performance floats to a stop. "Drop A Dime" is feels both new and old for Hunter, as the chunky rhythm becomes a junction point for the trio to intertwine before they separate and rejoin once establishing their respective patterns.

Deep bass lines resound around beats and tuneful themes on Mistico, all of which come through clearly in the mix, thanks to Charlie Hunter and Scott Harding's production. Dynamics and texture, as introduced here, would seem to provide this new trio with much fodder for exploration as they evolve together." -AllAboutJazz

Album Reviews:

Down Beat (p.62) - 3 stars out of 5 -- "[T]he disc reaches for clarity and attains it. Hunter's done some editing, and the pith of his approach creates many perks."

JazzTimes (p.72) - "[I]mpressive....MISTICO's songs dress up in rock and roll's rawness and power."

Album Notes

Charlie Hunter Trio (Guitar): Charlie Hunter (7-string guitar); Simon Lott, Erik Deutsch.

Personnel: Erik Deutsch (piano, Fender Rhodes piano); Simon Lott (drums).

Audio Mixer: Scott Harding.

Recording information: Bedfordstudio, Brooklyn, NY (02/2007).

Photographer: Michael Weintrob.

Although jazz fusion guitarist Charlie Hunter appeared on the scene in the mid 1990s with a specially constructed eight-string guitar that allowed him to play basslines, rhythm parts, and solos essentially simultaneously, the San Francisco-based artist is talented enough as both a player and composer not to fall into the novelty trap that Stanley Jordan, for example, found hard to escape. Balancing a productive career as a frontman with his lucrative sideman roles for the likes of Norah Jones, MISTICO finds Hunter in basic power-trio format, this time favoring a seven-string guitar that obviates the need for a bassist. The 10 tracks range from the funky, danceable "Wizard's Sleeve" to the pensive "Ballad," but overall, Hunter is in a rock-oriented mood here, not unlike the Bad Plus.


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