Charlie Hunter Trio|Groundtruther

Friends Seen and Unseen|Latitude

Jazz-trained, funk-loving guitarist Charlie Hunter realized early on the limited groove possibilities of playing a standard six-string. So during the Bay Area's vibrant hip-bop boom of the early '90s, he got himself a custom eight-string -- with three fat bass cables -- that allowed him to develop a novel concept: to variously (and simultaneously) lay down bumping low-end riffs, suave melodies, in-the-pocket solos, and rich harmony (B-3 organ-style). Yet despite his relative popularity among younger audiences, his Blue Note albums throughout the Clinton years rarely ventured beyond jazz/pop/funk lite. Now that he's free from his major-label contract, Hunter seems determined to make his original vision reality. Friendsis arguably his most convincingly funk-deep disc to date. Tunes range from an angular-cum-soulful blues to a sassy wah-wah shuffle to a chill cover of South African pianist Abdullah Ibrahim's "Soweto's Where It's At." Better still is Latitude,the first installment from his duo Groundtruther (with drummer/ electronicist Bobby Previte) in an anticipated trilogy for Matthew Shipp's Blue Series imprint. Featuring guest saxophonist Greg Osby, this ambient electro-acoustic exploration shoots for the cosmos. According to the album notes, it's "100% improvised," yet thoroughly cohesive in its hypnotic layers: sumptuously off-kilter and surprisingly tuneful. A long time coming, Hunter delivers. -- Sam Prestianni

 
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