Alter Ego: Charlie Hunter
1) Ratdog, 3/30/06- Upstate Dog with Al Schnier
2) Hot Tuna, 12/31/97- The Sears/Sorgen/Flazarrano band at its best
3) Tabla Beat Science, Live from San Francisco- Laswell and Zakir beats
4) WSP, 8/6/03- A fantastic sounding acoustic show
5) Ravi Shankar, Live at Monterey – Afternoon listening
Since the Charlie Hunter Trio is disbanding after Aprils What Is Jazz? Tour, I though it worth considering the twelve stringers best alter ego- the trio Ground Truther, featuring Charlie Hunter, Bobby Previte and a rotating cast of third men: DJ Logic, Greg Osby, Uri Cane, DJ Olive, among others.
Ground Truther from BBCs Jazz on 3, February 2004
This incarnation of the trio featuring Logic on turntables was recorded in Birmingham, England and broadcast on Jazz on 3, which is a great source of contemporary jazz gigs that really should be shared. The improv opens with goofy sounds from Previte and Logic- something like rhythmically dripping water. But from there, the band takes a fantastic dub journey- the pairing of Hunters lazy bass and Logics penchant for washes and pulsing scratches is an alchemical formula for the perfect late nite chill soundtrack. At times the echoes are creepy, at times the guitar is pensive, or Spanish, at times the trio simply lays out serious downtown groove, familiar and pleasing. What makes this hour long set so rewarding, worth so many returns, is the way all the elements come together in layers that slowly peel away to reveal myriad textures and tones.
Ground Truther, North Sea Jazz Fest, 2005
Another set from across the pond, this FM recording from one of the truly great jazz festivals features Phillys own Greg Osby as the third man. The whole set is fogged in with Prevites eerie effects- theyre misty but carry great color. The intro is lethargic and groping as parts fall into place. After a good eight minutes or so, a solid idea forms around Hunters descending bass line. The sax is low and swaggering, and when the line bottoms out, Osby is almost alone as he flutters in short bursts that end in a handful of clingy notes, so that whole segment seems cohesive in hindsight. A similar effect occurs later in the set, after Hunter has present a twisted riverboat concept and the trio begins to test out a range of ideas, passing on each after a minute or two. But after ten minutes, the whole section seems one long, shifting pattern- a grand amorphous jam that culminates in a bout of steady rocking before tumbling into a drum/effects solo.
What follows is an exceedingly beautiful, stretching movement that lingers on long sax notes and lightly rolling drums. Periodically it quiets to just Osby playing pretty or squonking and bleating, but the underlying beat remains the central idea. Its Ground Truther at its best- blissfully deep and wandering. Somewhere near forty minutes in, buzzing and plinky guitar draw the music to a tighter focus- forceful sax and big rhythm drums. After the cohesion loosens, the trio returns a reflection of the opening corridor- loose and open- before making a hard grooving charge with something Middle Eastern lurking at the fringes. While the ten minute finale ebbs and flows, it maintains a pronounced energy, as if the band is tossing in all the tricks it has yet to use. Such Osby shows are exceptional for their jazzier edge, and their edgier jazz.
Christian McBride, Live at Tonic
Philly bassist Christian McBrides new three disc set on Ropeadope is full of the character and inventiveness that can be lost in the flood of new groove bands. McBrides quartets sharp, almost hard bop aggression is like a breath of fresh air- a little unexpected jolt. The first disc is culled from two first sets at Tonic in NYC in January of 05, the opening Technicolor Nightmare and later Sonic Tonic being standouts. The second and third discs are the second sets from the same two nights- full, unedited improv sessions with guests. The third disc features Kraz, Rashawn Ross on trumpet (Soulive, Sam Kininger), Logic and Scratch, the latter pair offering a huge duel over the last two tracks. The second disc features Charlie Hunter, Jenny Schienman on violin and Jason Moran. That disc feels much more like an average New York groove night, with more direct solos and guests coming and going throughout. It does, however, open with a half an hour See Jam, Hear Jam, Feel Jam and a great cover of Bitches Brew mid set. This aint your average groove, and it aint your average jazz either, making it a worthwhile purchase- especially at only $18. Good liner notes too- short, but they capture just the right feel.