For the casual music appreciator, jazz can often be the toughest pill to swallow. Sure, it’s interesting, intelligent, and often times great to dance to, but it also often comes with an air of pretentiousness that’s ingrained way deeper than any damage Bono can do to rock ’n’ roll. But when seven-string guitar great Charlie Hunter rolls into town this Sunday for a show at SOhO, you can bet the place will be packed with all walks of music lovers.
Since 1993, the 42-year-old Hunter has recorded and released no less than 17 albums, launched his own indie label, and made a name for himself as one of the most virtuosic shredders in the States. Stylistically, Hunter’s gained acclaim for playing mostly seven- and eight-string guitars, by which he can hold down both bass and rhythm simultaneously. As for the live show, Sunday night finds Hunter back in trio mode, performing in support of his most recent release, Gentlemen, I Neglected to Inform You You Will Not Be Getting Paid. The album delivers a subtle dose of post-bop with a solid and infectious mix of acid jazz, funk, swing, and Hunter’s beloved blues, which manages to flow together thanks to the guitarist’s long heralded, arguably untouchable, style.
And if you still need good reason to check him out live, Hunter’s current backing band is a veritable roster of crazy talent. Along for this leg of touring, he’s got drummer Eric Kalb (Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, John Scofield) and trumpeter Shane Endsley (who’s played with everyone from Ani DiFranco to Josh Roseman and Ravi Coltrane).
I recently chatted with Hunter about the new disc and tour and future shredders of America.
This record differs a lot from the stripped-down style you’ve been exploring. What were your thoughts going into this project? I just wanted to make a really, really good record for very little money. [Laughs.] And I did that by recording live, which I always do anyway; I never do any overdubs. So we recorded live to half-inch tape mono, which means no mixing, and I had a great engineer—Dave McNair—who hooked all the mixing up on the fly, and we had great musicians to play, so we just went in there and knocked it out in a couple days.
Other than the cost, what do you get out of recording to analog? Well, mixing costs a lot of money because it takes a lot of time, and we know how to play, so … [laughs]. Most nights a year, we’re playing, so for us to go into a studio and just play means we don’t have to worry about having a net. It became all about recording to tape and just how good that sounds, and all the analog gear and how much better, generally, that sounds than digital. For just recording a band straight up that knows what they’re doing, there’s just no substitute for tape and tubes, you know?