It seems like Charlie Hunter has always played a Novax eight string guitar, but for the new CD he slimmed the neck down and nixed a string.
Even so, those remaining seven strings never sounded better than they do on Mistico (Fantasy Records). Hunter's a major genre jumper, he teamed up with DJ Logic in 2005 to make his Longitude CD, his all-instrumental Bob Marley homage Natty Dread was a career highpoint; his funk outfit TJ Kirk exclusively played reworkings of James Brown, Thelonious Monk, and Roland Kirk tunes; and early on he covered Kurt Cobain's "Come As You Are' on his first Blue Note CD, Bing Bing Bing! He's recorded something like 19 jazz CDs, but I have to admit there's more than a few clunkers in my collection. Even the better ones are a little uneven, but Mistico may be the best of all. And it's easily the most consistent, loaded with great Hunter penned tunes from start to finish.
Mistico was recorded live-to-tape, and most tunes were improvised on the spot and knocked out in one or two takes. The record, by the way, features the Charlie Hunter Trio, with Erik Deutsch on piano, Fender Rhodes and CasioTone keyboards, and Simon Lott on drums.Oh, I almost forget to mention Hunter plays guitar and bass, simultaneously on that seven-string guitar.
"Balls" jumps out of the gate with a burning jam session, and as it goes on it starts to feel like the old Blind Faith tune "Can't Find My Way Home." Hunter's cart wheeling riffage on "Wizard Sleeve" sounds great bouncing off Deutsch's Fellini-esque and totally warped keyboard machinations. The two musicians send chills up my spine when they play wildly off kilter runs and yet never-ever lose their way. Lott's bashing drums urge them on, so the trio meshes as a super-tight unit. The title track starts out atmospheric trippy, and Hunter's loping bassline adds to the tune's mysterious vibe. Our hero lays on the freaky wah-wah effects for the upbeat "Special Shirt," and hey, I guess this CD isn't really any sort of jazz record at all. I could go on, but maybe I should just say Mistico will appeal to any of you who played Jeff Beck's Wired album to death. Beck's great, but Hunter's got more tricks up his sleeve, that's for sure.