Friday night in Boulder at the revered Fox Theatre featured one of the premier artists of modern jazz, the inimitable Charlie Hunter. Seated atop a chair centerstage, Hunter and his crew showcased their sounds before a crowd that stood shoulder-to-shoulder to catch a glimpse of the eight-string guitar guru working his magic. With a red curtain backdrop and sparse lighting effects accenting the show, Charlie Hunter and his group produced cutting-edge sound infused with traditional jazz, resulting in the distinctive package that has drawn scores of music lovers to his sound.

The band was in top form Friday evening, and the attentive crowd was fully appreciative of the efforts being made by the individual band members. The horn section of John Ellis, Alan Ferber and Ron Miles was amazingly tight, and allowed Miles to display his virtuosity on the trumpet on several occasions. The entire band performed as a well-oiled machine that moved as a single unit, with several "start and stop" sections in jams throughout the night. While Hunter personally draws comparisons of his music to Medeski Martin & Wood, his is undeniably more rooted in straight-ahead jazz than many other artists on the scene today. With his music a delightful amalgam of funk, rock and jazz, Hunter is able at times to create a cacophony of sound with minimal effort. The resulting sound is both fiercely original and schooled in the tradition of some of his musical heroes such as Stevie Wonder, Jimi Hendrix, Muddy Waters and Charlie Parker.

The overall mood of the show was relaxed, confident and mellow. Derek Phillips made some notable contributions, and played the way one would expect from an experienced jazz drummer. As always, it was a true treat to watch Hunter create a tapestry of sound from his eight-string guitar, simultaneously producing bass and guitar riffs that left many in the audience scratching their heads in disbelief. The sheer dexterity that is required to elicit those sounds from a guitar is nothing short of stunning. As one of my friends noted: "They've gotta have Les Claypool or somebody behind the curtain on bass. There's no way he can do all that." For those who have not had the opportunity to catch Charlie Hunter in action, I highly recommend it. As versatile a performer as Hunter is, I felt fulfilled when I left the Fox, but also believed Hunter had given me only a partial glimpse of his full talent. Charlie Hunter and his rotating band of players are members of that elite class of musicians that is able to produce timeless music that you can appreciate more with each listen. Friday night at the Fox resulted in another triumph for Hunter and his group, as they solidified their fan base while attracting many newcomers to that distinct sound for the first time.

Nathan Rodriguez
JamBase | Boulder
Go See Live Music!

Other Charlie Hunter performances in your backyard:
8/6 Breckenridge, CO
8/7 Vail, CO
8/8 Harrisburg, PA
8/9 Wilkes Barre, PA
8/10 Cockeysville, MD
8/11 Boulder, CO
8/15 Knoxville, TN
8/16 Chattanooga, TN
8/24 Tulsa, OK
9/4 Portsmouth, VA
9/6 Richmond, VA
9/7 Gary, NC
9/8 Charleston, SC
9/10 Greenville, SC
9/12 Birmingham, AL
9/14 Atlanta, GA
9/19 New York, NY
10/24 San Francisco, CA

[Published on: 8/6/02]

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