Monte Croft - vibraphone; Willard Dyson - drums; Charlie Hunter - 8 string guitar
Charlie Hunter was at the epicenter, if not the full force behind the new jazz sound coming out of San Francisco in the early '90s. During this 1998 concert in his native Nor Cal with the line-up he called Pound for Pound, Hunter takes jazz into further dimensions—traditional as well as far out as out can be—though his ear never completely veers from delivering a soul satisfying sound that is uniquely his.
Over the course of a career that is well into its second decade, Hunter's released 20 albums on prestige jazz labels like Blue Note and Concord, as well as independents, all of them featuring his singular guitar work. Noted for his technical expertise but always fused with his commitment to artistry as well as craft, Hunter is known for his custom seven and eight string guitars. The unusual instruments allow him to voice lead guitar as well as bass; he uses effects to create sounds of everything from vintage Hammond organ to rock'n'roll distortion. His musical adaptability has found him an in demand collaborator with artists diverse as Les Claypool, John Mayer and D'Angelo.
A graduate of Berkeley High School, known for its music curriculum and the musicians it turns out, Hunter was also a young student of metal guitar shredder Joe Satriani and a one time member of Michael Franti's early group, the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy. Then Hunter got his jazz on: Playing regularly in small Bay Area clubs with his Charlie Hunter Trio in the early '90s, by 1993 he'd recorded a self titled debut. The group TJ Kirk further deepened his explorations into jazz, funk, and avant garde music.
Pound for Pound was a studio project with Stefon Harris (vibraphone) John Santos (percussion) and Scott Amendola (drums), perceived as a groove project (no horns, please). Claiming inspiration from hip hop, specifically the Wu Tang Clan and A Tribe Called Quest, there's no mistaking the mood created on Pound for Pound's 1998 recording, Return of the Candyman as anything other than what it is: The "funkification" of the utterly innovative, improvisational Hunter sound. On this day at the annual Mountain Air festival, alongside the Hunter originals, the live trio (featuring Willard Dyson on drums and Monte Croft on vibes) there are jazzed up versions of Bob Marley's "Them Belly Full" (which Hunter had previously recorded on his tribute to Marley's Natty Dread) that tickles the song's reggae roots and a soul-dipped jazz version of the Supremes' "You Keep Me Hangin' On." With Hunter, playfulness is the name of the game, but then that's a key concept in the making of serious, weighty music.