Trained as a guitarist, Charlie Hunter has played in various bands before going solo where he worked on a number of music projects, released a slew of albums and fronted The Charlie Hunter Quartet. Now slimmed down to a trio that includes keyboardist Erik Deutsch and drummer Simon Lott, The Charlie Hunter Trio has released Mistico. Produced by Charlie Hunter and Scott Harding, Mistico is top heavy in blues-rock grottos marbled by freestyle jazz. On many of the tracks, the trio plays out like a jamband as the members spark each other’s fragments. The three nudge each other onward creating an album that is suffused with spontaneous exchanges that have a traditional blues tonality with a modern jazz wiggling.
I thought the trio put their best track first, opening the album with the smoky, club-blues textures of "Lady." The music has tints of old world and modern jazz that moves with a leisurely glide reminiscent of fusion guitarist Daniel Lucca. And like Lucca, Hunter plays his guitar with the instincts of a bass guitarist making jazz-imbued grooves along the sustaining keys and chilled drum strokes. The tracks keep a rugged, blues-rock ambience like a roadhouse blues band on "Speakers Built In" and "Balls," which has emotive drum rolls and a spectacular solo. The bluesy rock tones have a semblance to rockers like the Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Hunter’s guitar trajectory shows distorted reverb on "Wizard Sleeve" and burly flares on "Drop A Dime," which produce a bluesy psychedelic glaze. The weepy folds of "Estranged" deliver a slow, woozy stroll, whereas "Spoken Word" has irregular rhythms and freestyle movements that causes the note values to shift randomly stimulating the tempo to gradually slow down and accelerate sharply. The trio’s symbiosis shows nice limberness and wiggling action as the players quickly respond to each other’s input, like in the catchy jazz steps of "Special Shirt" and the chirpy, cabaret style of "Chimp Gut." Another track that is specially formulated is the title track "Mistico," which rinks bluesy-laden guitar verses tucked into the mid-Eastern flavored keyboard swirls and finely brushed percussion strokes. If there is such a genre as experimental jazz, "Mistico" fits in it perfectly. It is a result that can be attributed to Hunter growing up in San Francisco among a vast array of musical cultures existing together. Many of those cultures appear in The Charlie Hunter Trio’s tracks.
The Charlie Hunter Trio really tests each other’s strengths on their album Mistico. It is an endeavor that lets this trio explore their visceral chemistry and to build a foundation as a solid unit. Mistico actually feels like a debut album, where the musicians are just learning to play together for the first time. It has an exciting feel that comes with being involved in new interactions and experimenting with music in ways that these musicians have never done before. On one hand, the album has traditional blues and jazz principles and on the other side, the trio is pioneering new terrain that is solely representative of their own chemistry.