Charlie Hunter - 8-string guitar
Leon Parker - drums, percussion Peter Apfelbaum - tenor sax
Josh Roseman
- trombone
Stephen Chopek
- drums, percussion
Robert Perkins - drums, percussion

1. Rendezvous Avec La Verite 6:37
2. Two for Bleu 5:39
3. Al Green 5:39
4. Nothin' But Trouble 6:33
5. Cloud Splitter 4:01
6. Epistrophy 3:41
7. Flau Flau 5:56
8. Dersu (A Slight Return) 5:14
9. Someday We'll All Be Free 4:55

Produced By Charlie Hunter & Joe Ferla


By now it should be apparent that Charlie Hunter's career has long legs. The 32-year-old eight-string guitarist has not only been churning out an album per year since signing with Blue Note Records in 1995, but he has also consistently thrown change ups into the mix of each outing-thereby insuring that each recording has a freshness and vitality of approach that is the hallmark of a successful artist. Based on past offerings, you can't accuse Hunter of drifting into a zone of jazz stasis.

With his latest Blue Note release, self-titled, Hunter continues to explore a breadth of expression-from funky dance floor grooves teeming with percussion to stop-you-in-your-tracks balladry in a solo setting. He's invited some old friends as well as new partners. It's his sixth recording for the label and seventh overall as a leader. So what's new with Charlie this time out? "This is the first record I've made without a steady band and the first where I didn't adhere to the same concept all the way through," he says, while noting that this is also the first time he's been stumped by a title. "I've been keeping self-titled as a backup all these years just in case I couldn't come up with something good for my other albums." As in previous recordings, Hunter tweaks the personnel list on this self-titled release. Returning in fine form is the brilliant drummer Leon Parker who collaborated with the guitarist on his Duo album (1999). The leader also enlisted two percussionists, Robert Perkins and Stephen Chopek, and for several songs calls on the services of trombonist Josh Roseman and tenor saxophonist Peter Apfelbaum (the latter, like Hunter, an ex-San Francisco Bay Area noteworthy who now lives in Brooklyn). This is first appearance of horns on a Hunter album since 1997's Natty Dread, the re-envisioning of Bob Marley's classic recording in the Blue Note Covers Series. While in the planning stages of the new disc, Hunter listened to his old albums. "What I liked about them was that they all adhered to a strict concept," he says. "That was good because the listener wasn't subjected to a mishmash effect. But this time out I decided to try a bunch of different looks." The quick-witted Hunter, always ready to launch into an impromptu metaphor to explain himself, talks hoop: "It's like a basketball team coming down the court and running the same play everytime. It gets pretty predictable. But if you structure your offense around your different players-running a play for the center, then the next time focusing on your shooting guard-then you've got a game." Translated into jazz lingo: Hunter played to the strength of his studio-forged band. What's the difference between that and a mishmash? "You know, when you're younger and you make your first record, you think it will be the only album you'll ever make," Hunter says. "So, the temptation is to try to fit everything you love into that one record. Even though I made Untitled without a band per se, I still approached each song with a band concept in mind." Hunter has been one of Blue Note's most popular artists since breaking in with 1995's Bing Bing Bing!, a tenor saxophone-drum trio. He added an alto saxophone to the mix for his next two recordings, Ready...Set...Shango! and the Bob Marley cover project Natty Dread. He then threw a curve ball with The Return of the Candyman (1998) when he retired the horn section and enlisted vibes player Stefon Harris and percussionist John Santos to join him and longtime drummer Scott Amendola in a new quartet called Pound For Pound. Last year's Duo found Hunter scaling back to the rhythm basics with Parker. (In addition to his own projects, Hunter found the time to contribute to other albums, most notably pop star D'Angelo whose recently-released Voodoo CD features Hunter on three tracks, two of which he shares co-writing credit.) Parker appears on nearly every tune of self-titled which makes for a ready-made rhythm section thanks to Hunter's eight-string ax, which allows him to play bass and lead simultaneously. "Leon and I have played for a long time together, so we have a continuity," says Hunter. "So the two of us provide the pencil sketchings of the pieces so that the other players can come in and apply shading and color." Hunter opted for a double barrage of percussion to give him a little distance from the drum kit. "After playing with Leon and then Adam Cruz on tour, I didn't know where to turn to find a drummer who was as special as both those guys. So I decided to explore the wall-of-percussion possibilities to get that big, wide-open sound with a lot of groove." As for the horn players, Hunter says, "They played their asses off. All I had to do was write out melody charts and they hit the tunes hard." The album opens with the catchy and very percussive number "Rendezvous Avec La Verité," a Hunter original that speaks of the truth. "This is something Adam and I worked on while on the road. It's got a strong 6/8 groove." As for its title, Hunter first chose "A Little 6/8," then went with "One Outside the Deal" before finally settling on the French title. "I was watching cable TV one night late," he explains, "and I saw this show on Haitian Pentecostalism called 'Rendezvous Avec La Verité.' I loved the name so I gave it to this number." The horns get introduced on the jaunty, upbeat "Two for Bleu," a tune Hunter wrote for a friend who died last year of an aneurysm. That's followed by "Al Green," a soulful muse on the soul man. "This tune reminds me of Al Green. It has a slow groove that he could sing over. This is Leon and me just playing in the studio and coming up with a tune from nowhere." The tenor sax and trombone take center stage again on the cooker "Nothin' But Trouble," that Hunter calls a "power tune for dancing and listening...that's a straight up, stinky, gutbucket Texas shuffle." After the dance groove ends, the intriguing number "Cloud Splitter" tip-toes in. With its muted guitar notes and muted trombone lines, the tune comes off as a hip, cool pop number. Apfelbaum, Hunter notes, likened the piece to a giant green caterpillar. Thelonious Monk's classic tune "Epistrophy" is spiced with a percolating Latin beat (it's another tune Hunter and Cruz arranged while on tour), a Hunter original "Flau Flau" catches a blues groove and sails (the guitarist says it reminds him of a "straight-up New Orleans funeral with a little Albert King and a little funky gravestone tremolo") and "Dersu" (first recorded as a ballad in 5/4 time on Hunter's 1996 Ready...Set...Shango CD) is rendered in a funky vein by Hunter and Parker with the former soloing over the latter's rhythms. The album closes with a striking solo guitar take on the Donny Hathaway pop classic "Someday We'll All Be Free." It's a transcendent moment on the disc. Hunter, best known for his groove jazz, proves again that his ballad playing is one of jazz's best kept secrets (check out his stunning take on "You Don't Know What Love Is" on Duo).

"Lately I've been playing around with more solo guitar stuff," says Hunter. Does this presage a future project? He's mum on the subject for now, but don't count that out. There are many more surprising new turns ahead for Hunter, who once again shows on self-titled that being plugged in creatively makes for some mighty fine music.



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