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Published: 2003/03/25
by Jonathan Stumpf

Charlie Hunter’s Current Move

Charlie Hunter is continually upping the ante. After playing and recording solo, in duos, trios, and quartets, he has now assembled the Charlie Hunter Quintet. Drawing on a group of variegated musicians to create a uniquely jazz driven sound steeped in South American tradition, the Charlie Hunter Quintet has delivered an honest interpretation of what has touched Hunter since becoming a musician's musician.

As the originator of the 8-string guitar, Hunter has been persistently seeking for ways to extrapolate from the forerunners of jazz and funk a sound unlike any others. His latest album, Right Now Move, is the exclamation point to the musical statement he has been making over the years. The funky ooze of "Oakland" makes listeners beg for more. The high-octane punch of "Whoopass" auspiciously raises the bar for funk enthusiasts everywhere. Like a breath of fresh air in a deep city haze, Right Now Move invigoratingly offers something different.

Before heading off for a national tour, Charlie Hunter took a moment to speak about Right Now Move, what has been his motivation in music, and why unmotivated musicians should work in the post office.

JS: Let’s start off with Right Now Move.What did you want to accomplish with this album?

CH: I had written a lot of music that I really wanted to record with my quintet and these great players. I wanted to make a group that was really unique, in a sound, with a horn section having a trombone and a harmonica in addition to a tenor sax.

JS: You’ve been playing with John Ellis for some time now but how did you find the other players?

CH: Well, you know NYC. You just make relationships with people over time and you meet people. Curtis [Fowles] I have known for a long time, just by playing with a lot of different folks. And Gregoire [Maret] I met when he came to one of our gigs and sat in a couple of years ago and I was totally into what he was doing and I really wanted to find a way to incorporate him into the music. Derek [Phillips], I knew from the Bay Area when he was a kid, you know, cause I am about ten years older than him. He had moved out here and was playing with Greg Osby and a bunch of other people. We just got together and it ended up working out great.

JS: What surprised you most about the sessions? Did the project come out as you had expected?

CH: A bunch of different stuff happened the first couple days. Then the second day we got two takes done but then they erased one of them in transfer at night. So basically the third day we recorded the whole record and pretty much everything is first takes.

JS: So you guys were under the gun.

CH: But that is how it should work. You shouldn't have to waste a bunch of money, just go in and do it. And when you have great players you can do that.

JS: How do you feel you have changed musically with this album from past albums?

CH: You are always trying to evolve yourself one way, shape, or form. I always try to put myself in situations which make me have to evolve my playing. And in this situation, putting myself in the seat of doing this quintet record, it was trying to evolve as a writer, trying to do three-horn composing.

JS: How do you respond when you hear someone describing this album or your sound in general as innovative?

CH: I guess because it has eight-string guitar on it, it will be different from whatever is out there just by virtue of that. I think musically there is some cool stuff on it. I think that the horn section is so different sounding makes it kind of cool. But that is as far as I would go with it.

JS: Will this album challenge the monochromatism of popular music?

CH: Probably not because no one will ever hear it. I am not interested in that, because that is a battle that cannot be won. So, I just have to do what I do and play to my very small, loyal fan base and enjoy that.

JS: What is the challenge of trying to encompass all these style into one sound yet still giving it your own style?

CH: Well, that is the whole goal. I think all of us that are doing this are most enamored of the jazz music from the 50s and 60s is probably the stuff we have checked out the most. I think that using that as your foundation and trying to be honest about the other music that you grew up listening to before you were a musician. The music that made you really excited about music. For me that is a lot of R&B and soul music and the blues. And then from having lived in New York, I really got into Latin music and Brazilian music in a really deep way and that reports itself into the music. And I think that is what it is all about. Trying to honestly listen to what other people are playing and try to assimilate that in an honest way and I think that is how music moves forward.

JS: You were lucky to cut your teeth back in the Bay Area with Joe Satriani. How or when did you know music was your calling?

CH: Joe Satriani was a great teacher. He was just a local guitar teacher. He instilled as a young teenage kid a good work ethic and diligence in me towards the instrument and eventually I found my own path. I figure I was probably in my teens when I decided this was what I was going to do.

JS: Do you use your music as a vehicle for your emotions?

CH: When you deal without lyrics you cut your audience down very drastically. You just really have to deal with the emotional stuff on a different level. So yeah, of course, it is all a motive and otherwise you should just work at the post office or whatever. Not to dis anyone who works at the post office. But it is what you are supposed to be doing as a musician. Trying to communicate with your audience on a non-verbal level that they do not get communicated with and enrich their lives and your lives in some way and if that involves emotion, then for sure.

JS: Do you find that to be a significant challenge?

CH: Yeah, but when you get into it the rewards are twice is great.

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