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10 Questions with Charlie Hunter


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Charlie Hunter plays the bass. Sure, he’s a guitarist and composer (prolific as all get out—he’s dropped 20 albums in 17 years and appeared on a slew of others, ranging from D’Angelo’s Voodoo to Les Claypool’s Highball with the Devil). But the technically brilliant musician has been playing specially-designed guitars that allow him to be a bass player and guitarist using just one instrument—he’s the string equivalent of one of those minstrels who accompanies himself with an accordion, harmonica and cymbals tied to his knees, sans the ridiculousness. Here, we find out a little more about the man behind the oversized guitar…

French Davis:
So, has the Bass Players’ union ever filed a grievance with you?
Charlie Hunter: They have a union?

FD: Since the Charlie Hunter Trio album in 1993, you’ve released at least one album every year, except for 1994 and 2002. What happened then? Take time off to learn a new instrument? Learn to fly a plane?
CH: Nothing like that. Purely circumstantial.

FD: You’ve become fairly ubiquitous in jazz circles, playing with everyone from Nora Jones to Stanton Moore. Say you could pick three to five musicians throughout history, living or dead, and record a concept album. Who are the players? What’s the concept?
CH: So many people come to mind, but it doesn’t work that way. You are where you are for some reason or other, and you can’t mess with that. I’ve tried messing with it, and it leads to misery and despair.

FD: The new shape of the Charlie Hunter Trio is hornless. How does that change your writing and your playing?
CH: It changes it immensely. Having horns, especially tenor sax, puts the music in a very “jazz” space. The sound of keyboard, especially the Casio etc. allows for much more lateral movement, tonally and conceptually.

FD: Tell us about the evolution of Mistico (Fantasy label, 2007). How did this lineup take shape? What inspired these particular pieces?
CH: I just wanted to get away from the jazzy sound and try to write differently.

FD: What’s the most star-struck you’ve ever been?
CH: I’m probably too oblivious to be star struck. Actually, I am an avid reader of the New Yorker. Cover to cover, every week. I met Burkhard Bilger, one of the contributing writers, at a friend’s house. I was star-struck then, as he only existed as the person who wrote all the fabulous pieces I had
been reading.

FD: Who’s on heavy rotation on your iPod these days?
CH: Been listening to a lot of Stax stuff. Messiaen. Charlie Christian, Stanley Turrentine, AC DC, Aimee Mann, Michael Jackson. My 5-year-old has been going through a serious Jackson 5 stage…so lots of that. I dig it.

FD: What’s your guiltiest music pleasure (for instance, perhaps you secretly like Hootie and Blowfish or watch American Idol)?
CH: I don’t have any guilty pleasures. If I find value in it and dig it, it doesn’t matter. I can enjoy Little Walter with the same gusto I do P!nk or Ornette Coleman. However, I wouldn’t be able to put either of the two outfits you mention in that category.

FD: When you’re not touring or recording or writing or designing a new guitar, what do you like to do?
CH: Read, read, read…

FD: What’s your favorite thing about playing in Colorado? Least Favorite?
CH: Hippies and Hippies.

Charlie Hunter July 10, Aggie Theater, Fort Collins. July 11, Boulder Theater, Boulder. July 12, Bluebird Theater, Denver

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