Charlie Hunter: A New Beginning

By: Jarrod Dicker

Charlie Hunter by Greg Aiello

Charlie Hunter can do it all. Creating an instrument that translates all his musical desires, Hunter simultaneously plays bass lines, rhythm guitar and lead with incredible ease; making him one of the most exceptional jazz players currently on the circuit.

Recently departing from the group he co-founded, Garage A Trois, Hunter went right back to work on a new album and tour to be introduced and carried out in the New Year.

Hunter is celebrating the release of the new album Gentlemen, I Neglected To Inform You You Will Not Be Getting Paid, with a residency at Rose Live Music in Brooklyn now. The album was released on January 12, 2010 through Hunter's own Spire Artist Media and digitally through reapandsow.

On this record, Hunter is accompanied by a new set of artistically endowed musicians to compliment his always radiant and unique guitar work. Joining Hunter is a new horn section composed of trombonists' Curtis Fowlkes, Alan Ferber and trumpeter Eric Biondo. Grounding the rhythm section is a familiar "jam scene" friend, the improvisational drummer Eric Kalb, who's toured with Deep Banana Blackout, Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings and many more. Biondo and Fowlkes will be joining Hunter for the Rose Live Music residency.

JamBase spoke with Charlie Hunter about the new album, his upcoming tour, the talented musicians that currently surround him and the explanation behind his departure from Garage A Trois.

JamBase: You have a new album, Gentlemen, I Neglected To Inform You You Will Not Be Getting Paid. What inspiration did you draw from musically for this new record? Is it a collection of random songs or does the entire album carry a familiar theme?

Charlie Hunter: Well, I wanted to make a record with a brass type sound. Some of the songs were already written previous to creating the record, but then I wrote others with the brass theme in mind. And on this record I added a new brass section.

JamBase: What approach do you take when entering the studio to lay down a new record? Do you cut it live or is it dubbed, re-recorded and more of a procedure?

Charlie Hunter: There was no dubbing on this album at all. It's cut entirely live. This album was recorded to two-inch analog tape, mono, with no overdubs at all. It was just mixed on the fly. Everything was live.

Throughout the month of January you've scheduled a residency at Rose Live Music in Brooklyn. Why did you opt to do the residency at this particular venue?

Charlie Hunter by Bay Taper
I live in New Jersey so it's not terribly far from me. I really like playing at Rose Live Brooklyn as well. It's a smaller more portable kind of scene, you know? But I guess just like anywhere else there are people that will be interested in the music, and you go set up and play and just hope that they come to the gig.

How is this album unlike your previous releases? What makes Gentlemen, I Neglected To Inform You You Will Not Be Getting Paid unique?

They're all unique. All have their own individual kind of thing. I try to never make the same record twice. I mean, if I had to name a common thread running through all of my albums it would be that my "instrument" is always used on them. However, I don't always play it the same way. It's always a little different depending on the vibe, so this is definitely a different record than anything I've done previously. Also it's in mono; first record I've done in mono, as well as two trombones and a trumpet. I've never had that configuration before.

Fans associate "Charlie Hunter" with your live and in-studio utilization of custom seven and eight string guitars. How did you come to ascertain this technique, making yourself an innovator as well as a player in the field?

It just formed from a natural-type progression. I created the concept by being involved with drums, guitar and bass all at once. If you put those instruments together, then you create this thing I use. From there you just try to evolve that concept and make it better and more effective.

Which guitars were used on this album?

I just used one on this album. It was a custom-made seven string created by Jeff Traugott.

Continue reading for more on Charlie Hunter...

 
The issue is with their audience. They're sort of really bossy and demanding and always too high or too drunk, constantly bossing you around. They tell you what they want to hear by screaming and yelling at you onstage... I just couldn't do that anymore.

-Hunter on Garage A Trois

 

Photo by: Susan J. Weiand

Besides adding Curtis, Alan and Eric to the group, you also invited Deep Banana Blackout drummer Eric Kalb. How did this relationship materialize?

Charlie Hunter
I first saw him in Chinatown. He was working as a busboy in a Chinese restaurant. I just thought, wow this guy is so good and nobody gives him the time, place or gig. He has a volatile temper, a history that shows so, and I guess he had a few problems with prior bandleaders. I just figured I'd have to give the guy a gig and see if it worked out. It was kind of rocky at first, but he understood that that kind of behavior would not be tolerated. Now he's really risen to the challenge and he sounds great.

Why are you so adamant about doing things grass-root style as opposed to having a big media machine behind you? For someone who has been on a label before, what are the advantages and perks you find by doing it on your own?

As far as putting out my own records, it just came to a point where it made the most sense to put out my own records. It didn't make any sense to do it with a label. Like why would you want to sink a bunch of money into a guy like me that's going to sell only five thousand records? I can make my own records and sell two thousand and make enough money to pay for the next record. So clearly, it makes more sense for me to be doing it on my own.

What propelled your decision to leave Garage A Trois and embark on another solo record?

Well, we were actually hanging out with Garage A Trois the other night in Seattle. I love those guys; I think they're great players. But the issue is with their audience. They're sort of really bossy and demanding and always too high or too drunk, constantly bossing you around. They tell you what they want to hear by screaming and yelling at you onstage. If you don't play as loud as you can all the time and close your eyes, so you don't see them dancing, then you just can't get through the gig. And I just couldn't do that anymore.

Charlie Hunter
Was there a particular incident that occurred that made you feel this way or has it been building for quite some time?

Both. I had a thing happen where somebody was dancing; he was so off-time and the audience was bossing us around, telling us to play the FUNK or do this, rock out, man, blah, blah, blah. I guess I had some type of a seizure, and the guy was dancing so out of rhythm that it took me weeks to finally feel whole again. It was a serious, scary episode for me, and I felt like I really had to do my own thing and get out of there; regroup so to speak. I still LOVE those guys. I just really couldn't handle that kind of scene anymore.

In the digital age we're currently in, what's your stance on the rise of singles and the slow diminution of the concept of a record? It seems people are beginning to lose the overall concept of a record, in that it is a collection of work meant to be listened to all together.

It really doesn't matter to me because I never sell singles anyway. People usually just want my music for the whole record. I don't have any "hits." So people will just buy the whole record because that's the strength of it. It's not like popular music where you're selling one thing; you're kind of selling a concept. Generally, if you're selling a strong record they're going to want the whole record anyway.

You've collaborated with a lot of artists, producing more than 16 albums already in your career. Who else would you like to work with in the near future?

I've been pretty lucky throughout my career. I've been able to work with a lot of amazing musicians. I pretty much have been working with the people that I want to work with. But if something cool came up then I would definitely be interested in it.

What besides the residency and the album should fans expect from you in 2010?

I'm just going to be doing more of the same thing, pretty much getting into a car and driving around. Like usual, going from place to place, playing music and that's pretty much the story.

You can download free MP3s from the new album at charliehunter.com.

Charlie Hunter tour dates available here.

JamBase | Real Gentleman
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