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Head of the Class


GOOD GROOVIN’: Far too few people were in attendance Sunday night when the Charlie Hunter Trio rolled into SOhO, but those lucky few who braved the 10 p.m. kickoff were rewarded with perhaps the most complete sound ever to come from a jazz trio. From a distance, Hunter the guitarist rips, but when you get a closer look at his buttery licks, your jaw comes unhinged in mind-boggling amazement as you realize he is simultaneously playing a pretty mean bass guitar on his eight-string freak machine. Mix that with the superb straight-ahead drumming of Derrek Phillips and the saxophone stylings of John Ellis and you have yourself a trio so organically full that it’s virtually impossible to not move some body part in time with rhythms being produced. Sunday’s show didn’t disappoint as the Berkeley-based trio floated seamlessly through a menagerie of jazz moods, with the occasional detour toward subtle hues of the blues and smoky incarnations of Augustus Pablo’s dubbed-down, jazz-infused Jamaican beats of the ’70s. It was during the latter when Ellis — alternating between his Wurlitzer and homemade melodica — provided a beautiful and haunting backdrop for Hunter’s best guitar of the night. Playing mostly from the group’s soon-to-be-released album Copperopolis, the show was a treat for Hunter neophytes and head-bobbing veterans alike. With Monday morning looming large, the trio took the weekend a few hours later than expected and blissfully so. It seemed the only predicament facing the audience was whether or not to surrender completely to the music and let the sweet sounds take them into the ozone or to keep a slice of their mind present so as to take notes from one of the reigning wizards of the jazz world.   — Ethan Stewart

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