Finally, after decades of searching, a jazz band comes around that is worth listening to because it evokes the origins of every jazz derivative – that is, unless you like guys who can hold a note on the saxophone for five minutes or anything played on an elevator. With its latest release, Copperopolis, the Charlie Hunter Trio proves it can hearken back to old-school jazz music.
With Hunter’s custom-made eight-string guitar, Derrek Phillips playing drums and John Ellis on the horns, this album is a jazzy rollercoaster from start to finish.
Copperopolis opens with “Cueball Bobbin,” a bluesy mix of keyboards that bears an eerie resemblance to sounds used by The Doors, with horns and Hunter’s eight-string providing the bass on the song as well as lead melodies. It might appear at first that there are more sounds being produced than could come from the trio alone; this, however, is not the case. The eight strings on Hunter’s guitar allow him to play rhythm and lead at the same time. The sound of his guitar is almost like an organ, which is not coincidental; the organ was the instrument Hunter wanted to imitate initially.
The title track is slow and moody and gives the listener the feel of a jazz club. The orchestration suggests a bit more planning than some traditional methods of performance in jazz music, as the melodies give a sense of direction as opposed from going back and forth to many instruments over the main progression as in an improv club.
The highlight of the album is the cover of Thelonious Monk’s “Think of One.” In the bio on his Web site, Hunter says his goal is to turn musicians such as Thelonious Monk into household names. Musically, Hunter could possibly achieve that goal single-handedly with his talent. Though this song is a Monk cover, the influence of the jazz legend is evident throughout the entire album, with hints of bebop prevalent on most songs. Bebop happens to be an old style of music harmonically based with improvisational melodies, Monk being a prominent bebopping pianist.
Hunter is a solid musician playing with other solid musicians; he knows where his music came from, and he knows how to send it in a new direction. If he keeps up, his longevity in the music business may earn him a place alongside such greats as Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker or even Thelonious Monk. It’s easy to go out and buy the new Kenny G record, but for great jazz music it’s wise to venture beyond what is mainstream and popular.