Charlie Hunter Trio - Copperopolis
Guitarist Charlie Hunter has been playing with his trio of highly talented band mates for over five years. This new album is the follow up to Friends Seen and Unseen and features new member John Ellis playing Wurlitzer (that's a keyboard to you and me) and melodica. You may be wondering why this album, being primarily a Jazz record, is being reviewed here. Well the answer is this album is not just jazz, there's more to it. This is rock Jazz. If you're a die hard Korn fan but have sometimes secretly listened to one of your dad's old John Coltrane or Miles Davis CDs then this could be for you. Charlie has blended unashamed Jazz improvisation, temperament and style with a rocky sound and an undeniable accessibility to those who normally wouldn't have given Jazz a chance.
This record simply grooves, there's no other way to say it. Forget what you think you know about Jazz, the licks here will suck you in until you realise you've been listening to one track for seven minutes and it still sounds fresh. The lead is shared between saxophones, keyboards, at times a bass clarinet and of course Charlie himself of guitar. But this is not your usual straightforward prim and proper jazz clean guitar sound, we're given liberal doses of distortion and effects. There's nothing too over the top obviously, that would just spoil the killer mood, but everything on Copperopolis sounds cooler than a big fridge in the arctic. It's sounds like this that make you want to be the fat guy in the fast show so you can say 'mmm, nice' and really mean it from the heart.
As a Jazz album Copperopolis shines in its own right. You have your fair share of technical sax and guitar solos, and occasionally some flattened 9th arpeggios and even more outlandish melodic structures but they are generally framed by more user friendly chords and conventional progressions are never far away. This is easy jazz, you are challenged as a listener, but not too much, and you are liberally rewarded. The pace of the CD is generally laid back and smooth, it's the kind of thing you'd hear in the background at a posh restaurant or at your most cultured friend's party, you wouldn't really notice it at first but then you'd realise that you'd been listening all along and actually it was pretty damn good. Overall this is an intriguing blend of traditional jazz and contemporary rock worth giving a try.