The People’s Performer
It was a little before 9:00pm on a Monday night at The Living Room in downtown Manhattan. The opening band was finishing their set as the crowd began to fill in the extra chairs and tables, positioning themselves for the perfect view. It was a full house by show time. Standing room only.
Just before he was scheduled to start, Charlie Hunter appeared from the back of the venue. He casually navigated through the herd of fans and friends, and tucked his encased guitar and tiny solid-state amp in a corner on the stage. As he turned back, he answered questions with a zealous smile, shook a few hands and held conversations with some eager listeners.
Charlie Hunter is a former Blue Note artist, world-renowned guitar virtuoso and a one-of-a-kind talent. He plays a custom-made 7-string guitar — the top three strings for bass and the bottom 4 for guitar. That means the man can play rhythm, drop a smooth bass line and solo all on the same instrument, all at the same time. And he does it expertly, effortlessly and beautifully. He’s truly a one-man wrecking crew.
All things considered, there’s every reason for there to be some kind of disconnect between he and the audience. Charlie is a jazz-great and a master at his craft. But his relaxed demeanor and witty, participatory asides made the performance feel like a private show for close friends.
Charlie Hunter’s High Pockets and a Fanny Pack
Charlie humbly took the stage alone with only his guitar, a stool and his amplifiers to accompany him. But when he started his first tune, it sounded like a power trio was playing. His tact was jaw-droppingly groovy, and each song pulsated with funky phrases and an implied drum beat. And it wasn’t only his performance that entranced the crowd, it was also his charm and sincere effort to make a connection. He told stories, improvised some tunes on the spot and handled wise cracks from a few inebriates with ease — much to the amusement of the audience. He also asked for requests (not just original requests, but any song someone could think of) and encouraged people to shout out a genre that would ultimately inspire the following tune. It was truly a spirited and animated show. Charlie grunted with approval after playing a tasty lick, laughed after a minor error and even poked fun at his guitar’s uncomfortably high action and the condition of what he called his “recession strings.”
After he finished his set, there was no mention of his newly released album with drummer Scott Amendola, “Not Getting Behind is the New Getting Ahead.” There weren’t any shameless self-promotions or announcements about a merch table near the door. To a true musician and class act like Charlie Hunter, that’s simply not what’s most important. It’s all about the music.
Be sure to catch Charlie in a city near you. You’re bound to have a similar experience, whether he’s playing solo or with a supporting cast outstanding musicians. Visit charliehunter.com and “like” him on Facebook for information about his latest album, tour dates and more.
Written by Ryan Engelbert
OurVinyl | Contributor