Charlie Hunter

Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham UK
21-11-2016

“That was called – ah, it doesn’t really matter what the titles are. It’s all existential hogwash anyway.” That was seven-string guitarist extraordinaire Charlie Hunter to the crowd in the bigger room upstairs at this historic venue last night.

There was zero existential hogwash in the music. Most was from Hunter’s new album Everybody Has a Plan Before They Get Punched In The Mouth which pairs him with drummer Bobby Previte and two horns. On this occasion those horns were young London dudes, trumpeter Yelfris Valdes and trombonist Kieran McLeod.

In his earlier days Hunter would put his guitar through a Leslie speaker and use a volume pedal – the effect was of seeing a guitarist but hearing a Hammond player, complete with bass pedals. In the last few years he has got back to blues basics. He has also changed his attitude to his instrument: “I really stopped wanting to be a bass player and a guitar player together, and finally fully committed to what this instrument is,” he told Premier Guitar.

The Charlie Hunter band - taken on my iPhone

The Charlie Hunter band – taken on my iPhone

That renewed clarity was on full show last night. With drummer Bobby Previte to his right and the two horns on his left, Charlie grinned and just did the business. And boy can he and Bobby do the business! They make a brilliant pair, presenting their own music rooted in the now, but in passing they also present something like a history of American music over the last century, from New Orleans to Detroit, from old-time shuffle to modern cut-and-paste, from blues through jazz to rock and soul.

Valdes and McLeod looked only too happy to go back too, pulling references and showmanship from their great-grandparents’ age to feed into their thoroughly contemporary style.

But the most miraculous aspect of the evening was “the pocket”. Hunter and Previte would be such a hit with Fagin. They reach deeper into the pocket than anyone I’ve heard – they don’t just pick the pocket, they delve right down to investigate the whole jacket lining! Such deep, deep grooves, such nuance within those grooves, such flow and narrative direction, such story-telling in sound! It was  – as I am only too aware I am conveying here – beyond words. It was a body thing – all sinews and muscles and blood and movement.

Along with a few originals we heard a mainly solo version of John Lennon’s Jealous Guy, and a glorious re-making of Curtis Mayfield and The Impressions’ We Must Be In Love. An encore had Previte playing everything including the stage walls and architrave, the mic stand, the externals of his kit, all while keeping that crucial groove rock solid.

A joyous evening.

This was a Jazzlines event in conjunction with Band On The Wall.


Categories: Live review

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