The erstwhile 8-stringed maestro eschews jazz for some four-to-the-floor bar room...
Charles De Ledesma 2007
US guitarist Charlie Hunter learnt the ropes in the 1980s, pulling eagerly from blues, rockabilly, funk, soul and jazz. Then, picking up on the craze in hip hop, he teamed up with Michael Franti in Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy. Next Hunter leaned in a purer direction – his ’95 CD Bing…Bing..Bing (Blue Note) was almost straight-ahead jazz. But then the stylistically-frozen, guitar-dominated world of Middle American bar band music caught up with him.
Mistico contiues a trend already underway on other post-2000 CDs, Longitude and Copperopolis, where a carefully crafted, jazz-inflected approach is traded in for a looser, boogie feel. Yes, there is a breezy, good time mood to Mistico – Hunter is, after all, an exact, technically superb player and his trio provides an immaculately tight framework - but the material is so lame and pedestrian that the stand outs are, sadly, the two lightweight, soft ones: "Mistico" and "Estranged".
What surprises is that Hunter has not preferred to record live for this release. Given that the repertoire clearly wishes to reflect the hypnotic hold blues-based rock has on the American psyche, a live recording would surely have been a more authentic format for such an agenda. In truth, the numbers here are almost-live, most recorded in just one or two complete takes.
What is missing is more of Hunter’s sensitive, melodic side, hinted at almost only on "Estranged", or more elaborate ensemble work. As for improvisation, classy arrangements or bold, time signatures…well, forget it. This is a disappointing release from a prolific and talented guitarist.