Charlie Hunter Trio
Live At The Memphis Music Mansion
Recorded in 2017, and finally available for all to hear this version of the Charlie Hunter Trio (recording a laidback set at the Memphis Music Mansion) features the wonderfully laidback blues/soul/jazz drummer George Sluppick and Michael Blake (Soprano, Tenor and Baritone saxes) alongside Hunter and his magic trick of playing bass and guitar at once on his hybrid 7- an 8-string instruments.
Hunter has been rubbing the head of the melody while patting the tummy of the song’s rhythm for some 30 years now across various projects and the ‘gimmick’ never tires because his fearsome talent and technique is matched with a generosity of spirit and all-around musicality that makes him a share-the-driving style of bandleader. If anything, the star soloist here is Blake (who also, via his baritone, has a role in supplementing the ‘missing’ bass).
Throwbacks to Junior Walker and Kenny Burrell, among others, give this a lively R’n’B-meets-jazz feel, with some killer renditions (One Mint Julep) and surprise covers (California Love).
Three For Dizzy extends out towards 10 minutes, driven by Sluppick’s infectious march. When Charlie solos – and he does do this plenty of times across the album – it’s never in a look-at-me way. (I guess people are already mesmerised by his dual/duel-roles). But there are Chitlins Circuit-era throwbacks and flashes of soft, cushiony funk. Little licks of blues and jazz is more overtly on his mind here than has been the case on recent releases.
Blake is possibly the real powerhouse across the set though – a gorgeous tone, constant adaptability (no surprise if you’ve looked at his stuffed-to-overflowing CV) and such a warm sound throughout.
We are in very safe hands here. Three very busy sets of safe hands. What a band. I’m glad they finally decided to release this record. It’s terrific.