Charlie Hunter Trio: Mistico (Fantasy)


charlie_hunter.jpgThe guitarist with two brains and four hands is back. Hunter is prolific and a restless advocate of changing things and mixing it up with a humor and skill that’s attracted a diverse fan base including the jam band crowd, jazz guitar buffs, and more. On Mistico, Hunter puts the twang back in the thang with energetic audiokinetics for nine original tracks. The loose, often jangling, borderline psychedelic-dream instrumentals tend to have a strong ’60s throwback vibe via effects and the stripped-down analog recording technique employed.

Hunter continues his recent tilt toward higher-volume power trio soundscapes (as on 2006’s Copperopolis and his recent playing (on 6-string electric) on Bobby Previte’s Coalition of the Willing). The title selection and “Estranged” provide the only slower respite from the rather relentlessly rocking other selections. A welcome relentless ride, it ought to be pointed out. The music inhabits oddly familiar yet unheard-of territory, with sparkling guitar tones – Hunter modified his trademark 8-string to 7, and shaved the guitar neck for further sound alteration.

The meaty rhythm section of drummer Simon Lott and keyboardist Erik Deutsch raises the bar creatively. Deutsch employs an arsenal of inspiration from vintage Doors, Tex-Mex Farfisa, early Chick Corea, and beyond. His spooky-friendly musings on “Speakers Built In” complement Hunter’s barrages of wailing and wah-wah-ing while Lott avalanches away on drums, making this one of the standout tracks. From the dreamlike perambulations of “Wizard Sleeve” and “Drop a Dime” to the weird happy funk of “Special Shirt” and the closing jam “Chimp Gut” the trio generates an appealing audio painting from Hunter’s unique palette.

It’s pointless to affix “jazz,” “fusion,” or any label to the music here, really, it’s just Charlie being Charlie. “When you’re in the ‘jazz world,’ there’s always this idea that the guitar is a nasty dirty thing that needs to be made tame so that people like it.” On Mistico, Hunter brings out the untamed beast and lets it have its way with our ears. - Tali Madden

Charlie Hunter Trio - Mistico

tmadden.jpgMr. Madden escaped New York a few decades ago, and still misses his egg creams. Aside from a brief flirtation with the Desert Southwest, he's been damply ensconced for half his life in Portland, Oregon. The freelance writer has written extensively on blues and jazz for outlets including the late Blues Access magazine, contributed to the MusicHound Blues and Jazz album guides, and produced and programmed jazz broadcasts for public radio.