Charlie Hunter Trio

Music Reviews Charlie Hunter
Charlie Hunter Trio

Far more than just a gimmick, Charlie Hunter’s 8-string guitar lets him play bass and electric guitar—both rhythm and lead. After several discs with additional vocalists and musicians, Friends Seen and Unseen marks Hunter’s first straight trio record since his 1993 debut. While the intervening releases, especially Songs from the Analog Playground, have proven inventive, this format serves Hunter best.

He ventures away from the smooth tones typical of his sound on “One for the Kelpers”—laying down lead parts that echo Sonny Sharrock’s work on Miles Davis’ Jack Johnson sessions—as the tune’s head slithers into a laid-back groove. In fact, the whole of the album finds Hunter, saxophonist John Ellis and drummer Derrek Phillips more adventurous than on 2003’s Right Now Move, especially on the angular “Lulu’s Crawl” and the delicate “Eleven Bars for Gandhi,” essentially seven minutes of Hunter and Ellis trading solos. While there’s nothing here to upset the casual jazz listener, there’s plenty of instrumental highlights for the serious fan.

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