(below is a variation of a review recently published in JazzTimes; direct link)
During turbulent economic times, it’s reassuring that Charlie Hunter can get things done without a lot of fuss. He performed the music for his latest CD live in the studio sans aural enhancements, EQ or overdubs, recording straight to tape in an “almost mono” fashion, as he has described it, and mixing the music on the fly. He’s accompanied only by Scott Amendola on drums, rather than the quintet employed on Gentlemen, I Neglected to Inform You You Will Not Be Getting Paid, his last group album. Both titles, of course, point to the difficulties creative musicians face in terms of keeping their art alive while simultaneously paying the bills.
While it’s difficult not to miss the broader sonic canvas heard on the bulk of of Hunter’s earlier releases — his 1999 duo album with Leon Parker was an exception — his two-man trio of sorts puts out plenty of sound. Hunter plays guitar as well as bass simultaneously on his signature seven-string instrument, and Amendola makes a natural, resourceful, highly interactive partner. This duo is still an effective vehicle for the leader’s improvisations and tunes, more than half of which bear titles hinting at the Recession-ravaged economy.
Hunter’s light funk grooves and Amendola’s greasy backbeats power several of the 10 tunes, including the title track, with its criss-crossing melody lines, the popping and crackling “Rust Belt” and “Those Desks Are Going to Clean Themselves.” A blues sensibility informs the thumping “Blind Arthur” and opener “Assessing the Assessors, an Assessor’s Assessment,” and “The Wizard Pounds the Pavement” and “Dot Dot Dah” are launched with heavily muted, dub-ish basslines. Spooky, overhanging chords and a dirge-speed tempo define the aptly titled “Ghost Mall.”
Hunter’s m.o. of stripped-down ensembles and sessions really seems to work for the guy. No surprise, that.