Describing Charlie Hunter is an arduous task. He’s a guitar innovator, that’s for sure, and he’s an expert improviser who can seamlessly switch from bop to hip-hop to ambient music. And there’s no telling who he’ll bring along with him for the ride.
The only thing you can ever truly expect from any of Hunters projects is the unexpected. The only constants are his seven-string guitar, on which he plays the bass lines and guitar melodies simultaneously, and the fact that anyone he works with is going to be a top-notch boundary-breaking musician.
On his latest project, Groundtruther, Hunter again collaborates with electronic drummer Bobby Previte. The resulting CD, “Latitude” is the first in a trilogy in which the duo works with a third musician for each project. Alto saxophonist Greg Osby is the guest of honor on this project, which, according to the liner notes, is “played 99 percent live and 100 percent improvised.”
As with any Hunter project, his guitar playing is the star. It’s simply mind-boggling the sounds he’s able to coax out of that thing. Each of the songs on “Latitude” is named for, you guessed it, a latitude beginning with the North Pole and ending with the South, but the music would be right at home in some sort of comic sci-fi movie. “North Pole” is spooky and minimal. As the band moves south, they journey through funk, slinky R&B, drum ‘n’ bass, cool jazz and crazy space-age sound effects, ending with what sounds like the mating call of a swarm of sick mosquitoes (which, incidentally, sent my dog into a barking frenzy every time I played it).
Those with little patience for minimalism or skronky jazz should stay away from this one. But if you appreciate improvisational give-and-take and can hear Hunter, Previte and Osby are headed, you’ll probably enjoy the journey.