Flexible with Frets

Hiphoprisy hero Charlie Hunter ditches his old sound for all that jazz

For Hunter being “something different” means he doesn't play the venues that normally host jazz music. “That distinction [between jazz and rock] is very arbitrary anyway,” he notes. “What is a jazz audience? Is there such a thing? What makes up an audience? I just play to music people. I prefer that, because people can let their hair down and really get into the music and try to have a connection. It's not about going to the dentist's office.”

Hunter's concerts recently have begun to attract jam-band fans. Like Medeski, Martin & Wood or Galactic, he lays down a good enough groove that Phish fans can twirl to his music. It's something that he isn't embarrassed to admit, in part because he sees his music as a superior form of improvisation.

Jazz guitarist Hunter doesn't want to be constrained by genres
Jazz guitarist Hunter doesn't want to be constrained by genres

“I think we're getting [a jam-band following],” observes Hunter, who is touring with two percussionists -- a drummer and conga player. “I'm glad. They're great. My audience is really smart. They're really into music, and I think they dig us because -- no diss on the jam bands-- from having studied improvisation for so long, we have more of a vocabulary to draw from, so it makes for a more fulfilling performance. You have to know how to use that vocabulary, so you're not just speaking circles around people. It has to be served up on the right platter. We grew up with all the idioms, so we can approach what we do with some degree of integrity and competence.”

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