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Published: 2006/02/17
by Matt Brockett

Copperopolis – Charlie Hunter Trio

Ropeadope Records

Charlie Hunter is one musician who seems to always be finding his way into new projects and bands. Amidst that semi-controlled chaos one constant for the past five years has been his trio, with talented drummer, Derrek Phillips, and impressive multi-instrumentalist, John Ellis. Copperopolis, the follow-up to the trio’s 2003 release Friends Seen and Unseen, should certainly satisfy anyone who appreciates a little rock n’ roll flavor with their jazz. The driving opener "Cueball Bobbin" showcases a much more fuzzy and abrasive tone to Charlie’s leads than most fans are probably used to, while still finding its way into the exploratory jazz realms they’ve come to expect. Tunes like "Copperopolis" and "Drop The Rock" should certainly satisfy any jazz cats who may be put off by the idea of a "rockier" Charlie Hunter album.

Listening to numbers like "Blue Sock" and "Think Of One," it becomes increasingly obvious just how much respect Hunter has for his bandmates' abilities, frequently letting them take the spotlight. The group may bear Hunter's name, but all three of them get plenty of opportunities to showcase their individual talents and play the role of bandleader throughout the album. John Ellis' ability to move deftly between his Wurlitzer, melodica, tenor saxophone and bass clarinet, often within the same song, helps bring an impressive range and depth to the band as a whole. Between Ellis' instrumental gymnastics, Hunter's mastery of his unique 8 string guitar (allowing him to play leads and basslines simultaneously), and Phillps' impeccable and creative timing, they achieve a rich, full sound that at times is nothing short of awe-inspiring.

The album's only (minor) disappointment comes in the form of the sinister pimp-strut rock of "The Pursuit Package." Not because of the song itself, but rather it's length, clocking in at just barely over two minutes. The abrupt ending suggests that there is more to this wicked little number, but for whatever reason it was sadly left on the cutting room floor.

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