Thursday, 14 January 2010

CHARLIE HUNTER - Gentlemen, I Neglected To Inform You You Will Not Be Getting Paid

During 2009, I began to develop a liking of jazz, particularly the classic late 50s/early 60s stuff from the Blue Note label. Occasionally I’ll branch out, but generally, so far, that’s the stuff that’s repeatedly held my interest. Recently, I discovered Charlie Hunter. He’s amazing - easily one of the best musicians on the current circuit. Although predominently a jazz player, his music also takes in elements of both rock and blues. He plays a custom made instrument including guitar and bass strings which allows him to play both bass and guitar parts simultaneously.

Throughout most of ‘Gentlemen, I Neglected To Inform You, You Will Not Be Getting Paid’ (which is something like his twelfth release, not counting collaborations), there’s a groove which leans towards jazz-funk, even though that label could only be applied to a couple of the tracks here. On a basic level, the mellow spaciousness of his playing is reminiscent of Grant Green; much of the work here carries the spirit of the old days of Blue Note.

The album starts gently with 'You Look Good In Orange', featuring staccato playing from Hunter, which at first seems to take a while to fall into place, but sounds more fluid on subsequent plays. The horn section of Curtis Fowlkes, Alan Ferber and Eric Biondo are used sparingly. A similar approach is evident on ‘Antoine’, though this time around, the horn section is given a freer reign. Although they mostly work with a rhythmic approach, they wander into semi-aggressive soloing midway.

The slow groove of ‘Drop A Dime’ is one of the moments where Hunter’s playing style gets bluesy. Despite his unique approach, it never appears showy for the sake of it; here, the whole band are laid back, constantly drawing in their listening audience and it’s by this midway point, ‘Gentlemen...’ starts to really find its feet.

The title cut and ‘High Pockets and a Fanny Pack’ are the standouts - although they're less jazzy and more in keeping with Hunter's previous album, 2008's 'Baboon Strength' (which contained very little jazz). ‘High Pockets’ sees the band playing funky soul, reminiscent of Sharon Jones and the Dapkings (of which drummer Eric Kelb is a member). It’s here that trombone player Alan Ferber turns in his strongest work. On the title cut, the band eschew their jazz roots and create funky rhythms that evoke the best moments of classic blues, in particular, the feel of BB King and Albert King. Great stuff.

As a footnote here, I should mention that Charlie Hunter was also the guitarist with Les Claypool’s band The Holy Mackerel. I’ve been a Primus fan for years, but for some reason never got around to buying that album. Maybe if I had, I’d have been aware of Charlie’s work earlier – but then again, since back then I didn't listen to any jazz, maybe I was only meant to discover him now. I have plenty of catching up to do...

January 2010

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