Words & Images by: Jamie Bacheller
Charlie Hunter Trio :: 02.14.08 :: Paradise Lounge :: Boston, MA
Typically my wife and I spend Valentine's Day at a nice restaurant, enjoying a meal and bottle of wine. This year was a little different. Sure, the Paradise Lounge can serve you a meal, but I don't think anyone there on February 14 made the trip just for the food. The Paradise Lounge is a small rock club with maybe 20 tables on the first floor and a handful more on the narrow second level. The Charlie Hunter Trio had no problem packing the place, with every seat taken and a good sized standing room crowd scattered throughout the venue.
The trio in its current form consists of Hunter on his custom 8-string electric guitar, Erik Deutsch on keyboards and Tony Mason on drums. Deutsch has been with Hunter for a couple years now and it shows. The two compliment each other well, knowing when to hold back and when to step up. Deutsch creates some really interesting sounds out of his Moog synthesizer that range from spacey to groovy. Mason is a new addition, replacing Simon Lott who appeared on the latest Hunter album, Mistico. Compared to Lott's groove-meets-rock attack, Mason is a straight-up funk drummer, commanding a heavy right foot on the kick drum.
The trio covered a lot of ground in the first set, which featured a couple of tunes from Mistico as well as some new tracks. "Drop a Dime" and "Lady!" were among the standouts, as well as a disco-fueled romp that I didn't recognize. Hunter and Deutsch drained every last drop of soul from the eerie riff that is "Drop a Dime," and "Lady!" quickly deviated from the studio version with Hunter laying down a walking baseline that paved the way for a straight ahead blues jam.
The second set opened with "Special Shirt," a breezy California inflected tune with a catchy hook. Hunter kicked on the envelope filter, setting the stage for some intricate soloing. His finger picking style lends itself well to this effect because it responds to how hard you hit the strings. The solo morphed into a clean tone followed by a bluesy tube amp attack. These days Hunter seems to be more blues than jazz, and his tone is reflecting it. Deutsch answered with his own tasty solo, then it was back to Hunter and Mason for some funk exploration. The '70s TV theme style "Speakers Built In" closed out the second set. Hunter and company quickly returned to the stage to finish out the two and a half hour show with a new original.
It had been a couple years since Charlie Hunter played Boston. His last appearance was at the Regatta Bar in Cambridge. The Ragatta Bar is the premier jazz club in the area and a great place to see live music but since Hunter has shifted his focus to blues and funk, rock clubs like Paradise Lounge can provide the best of both worlds, with seats for those that would like to sit and plenty of space to get up for those who can't stop themselves from moving.
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