The Charlie Hunter Trio featuring Charlie (guitar, bass), Curtis Fowlkes (trombone), and Bobby Previte (drums) returned to Ottawa to play the NAC 4th Stage for the winter edition of the Ottawa Jazz Festival. One might assume a very stuffy and elegant affair because "jazz", this was a seriously groovy hour and a half that made sitting in chairs around candlelit tables very difficult for those locked in.
It's also sometimes difficult to remember that this is a trio, when everything coming at the ears appears to be coming from a quartet. It's probably not inaccurate refer to them as a quartet because Charlie, in hipster formal attire (fuzzy orange sweater over dress shirt, 4-inch cuffed denim and workboots), covers the duties of both guitar and bass with his custom seven string guitar that features a fanned fret board that allows for multiple scales on each string. It's a bizarre concept to grasp and witnessing Charlie play leads, comps, bass runs AND vocalizing leads all at the same time, perfectly mashing (or 'mathing' ?) the scales into the right place is incredibly mesmerizing.
Having seeing Charlie play as a duo previously (including a very intimate performance at the old Elmdale Tavern), the addition of just one horn extended the range of the jams considerably. Albums like "Gentlemen, I neglected To Inform you You Will Not Be Getting Paid" combine a full horn section which fully punctuates the unmitigated talent happening on the 7 strings. Charlie Hunter is a guitar player's "sploosh".
Incidentally, Charlie presents a much dirtier experience in his legendary band Garage a Trois who should probably be reassembled for the summer time jazz fest…..in the late night tent perhaps!
Since this show was the start of a tour, the band had literally just learned the songs together. There were a few moments where Charlie guided the band through hooks and melodies and he was so incredibly animated and vocal when things were on track, which was pretty much during every phrase. The looseness was evident as Charlie would just explode in joyous laughter as things just worked.
Looking away or having eyes closed while taking in the live music, it was very easy to picture a bassist, standing behind Charlie, walking up and down the frets. In reality, he is covering that low end groove, completely synchronized with every single lick played with his remaining fingers. It's a fucking freak show of guitar.
The trio each had their solorific moments in mostly standard jazz performance slices, but much shorter than one would expect. They always seemed to steer back and integrate into the main avenue of each tune without the focused musician veering off into some strange place and landing back with a big clear finish. That made for some moments of "do we clap for that awesome solo here?" which is never a question in standard jazz trio performances. Because the clapping would clearly interfere with the seque, and repositioning of the jam. It was much more welcome to just let things fall in place.
When the trio completed their final piece, there was a ton of energy and an uproarious standing ovation which pulled them back for one more impromptu jam, a jazz standard dessert that provided the slowest and sweetest pace of the set.