THE ANALOG PLAYGROUND (Blue Note)
This cat's genius is staggering, but the groove moves you to keep your feet. Charlie Hunter is a true pioneer, with a rare thirst to reach ever further, and to take his people with him. He's on a very short list of the most interesting musicians of this time.
This troubled time, many think, no contest here. "I'm just trying to play music in the post-music era," Hunter says. "Everyone says that this is a bad time for music, and I totally agree, especially as far as popular music goes. But that's great -- it just means it's more of a challenge for us to make something happen."
The mighty Hunter plays an eight string guitar of his own design made by the iconoclastic Novax Guitars that has three actual bass strings on the bottom and five guitar strings that usually sound like an organ. I know it's a little hard to imagine, but he solos on both, interdependently, at the same time. Where he's coming from, and where he's going, ain't nobody been there before.
Although Charlie reverently acknowledges and always credits the work of his heroes like Thelonius Monk, James Brown, Rahsaan Roland Kirk and the lineage of jazz giants, he also draws heavily from the pop music of his entire life. I can definitely hear the very streety Berkeley kid he was in his music, everywhere.
This is Hunter's sixth release, and the first to feature guest vocalists doing unusual and excellent cameos. Theryl De'Clouet from Galactica turns in inspired takes on Earth Wind and Fire's "Mighty Mighty" and the Willie Dixon classic "Spoonful." Diva du jour Norah Jones (see our review this issue) absolutely slays the gorgeous Roxy Music number "More Than This," what a great song that is. She also sings a beautiful rendition of Nick Drake's "Day is Done," another tribute to Hunter's unending erasure of supposed boundaries. Rapper Mos Def and vocalist Kurt Elling are also outrageously good on two cuts apiece. And then, there are still a handful of instrumental number that the CHQ completely annihilate. They're unbelievable. They are currently John Ellis on saxophone, Stephen Chopek on drums, and Chris Lovejoy on percussion. Before you do anything else, please go to the Listen page and check out a few clips of this mindblowing artist. FG