Charlie Hunter Trio | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Charlie Hunter Trio

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Guitarist Charlie Hunter is no highly schooled young lion; his only formal training came at the hands of metal fusioneer Joe Satriani, and even Satriani's influence on Hunter's music is minimal. He didn't woodshed exclusively in small jazz clubs, running through standards, either; he played anywhere they'd let him. Apart from busking for change throughout Europe, his first steady gig was with the San Francisco-area group Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, but Hunter found their music too stifling and soon ventured out alone onto San Francisco's vibrant scene, where kids listen to hip-hop, bebop, funk, and soul jazz interchangeably and call the whole bag acid jazz. It was within this supportive, enthusiastic setting that the Charlie Hunter Trio's infectious, moderately cerebral, funky jazz developed. Hunter plays a custom-made guitar that's fitted with three bass strings and five guitar strings, allowing him to play guitar leads or vamps and a bass line simultaneously, in the same manner as a jazz organist. In fact, the trio, which also includes drummer Jay Lane and the terrific tenor saxophonist Dave Ellis, takes many of its cues from late-60s and early-70s organ combos that featured players like Big John Patton, Larry Young, and Lonnie Smith. While the group's eponymous debut, produced by Primus leader Les Claypool, was an admirable romp, its follow-up, Bing, Bing, Bing! (Blue Note), has more depth. Whether on fat New Orleans march rhythms ("Fistful of Haggis") or James Brown-ish grooves ("Bullethead"), Hunter's playing, which is redolent of John Scofield's distinctive tone, keeps the focus on funk, but the trio's not afraid to swing too. Hunter works best undergirding the authoritative playing of Ellis, who masterfully subverts the music's funky edge with unusual adventurousness. This marks the trio's Chicago debut. Sunday, 10 PM, Elbo Room, 2871 N. Lincoln; 549-7700.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/George Wescot.

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