Tuesday, July 17 , 2018, 6:52 pm | Fair 71º


Jeff Moehlis: Charlie Hunter Wows SOhO Crowd

Jazz guitarist plays amazing lead and bass lines at the same time

Awhile back, I was talking to a fellow music geek, and I told him my theory that if you’re at a party and the topic of music comes up, a good way to impress the partygoers about your fine taste is to say that recently you’ve been listening a lot to Radiohead.

He agreed, but then he had an even better response, something that would put you into a whole other league at the party: “I’m listening to a lot of jazz these days.”

I’ll admit, jazz can be a bit intimidating, especially to someone like me who is primarily a rock-‘n’-roll guy. Sure, I think Miles Davis was phenomenal, and I appreciate that John Coltrane played some mean saxophone. And I like pretty much everything that John McLaughlin was ever involved with. But where does a rock-‘n’-roll guy go from there?

After witnessing his stellar show at SOhO Restaurant & Music Club on Sunday night, I would say that a good answer would be Charlie Hunter.

Hunter is a jazz guitarist extraordinaire. Most notably (no pun intended), he simultaneously plays the bass lines and the lead guitar on his custom-made seven string guitar. Most guitarists would be happy to just be able to play one or the other at Hunter’s level, but he does both at the same time, seemingly with ease. It’s almost surreal to witness — you think, “Hey, where’s the guy playing bass? It can’t possibly be that guy playing killer leads, can it?”

Hunter grew up in Berkeley and took lessons from “the guy at the corner guitar store,” who happened to be Joe Satriani, he who surfs with aliens and whose other students have included Steve Vai and Kirk Hammett (Metallica). That Hunter’s jazz-jammy guitar playing shows no obvious resemblance to Satriani’s shredding is a tribute both to Hunter’s musical vision and Satriani’s teaching.

Hunter, joined by Shane Endsley on trumpet with various muting devices and the versatile Eric Kalb on drums, tore through two sets, with songs ranging from the mellow to the ultra-funky, often with a tasteful touch of blues.

This included a completely reworked instrumental cover of Al Jolson’s “Avalon,” a playfully funked-up instrumental version of mariachi favorite “Cielito Lindo” for the encore, and Hunter’s own “Ode to My Honda Odyssey” from his newest amusingly-titled album Gentlemen, I Neglected to Inform You You Will Not Be Getting Paid. (Hunter won’t name names about who is responsible for the phrase that became the album’s title.) He joked that this last song was a shameless attempt to get Honda to replace his Odyssey, which has 154,000 miles on it. Best of luck with that.

If you haven’t done so yet, I encourage you to check out the ultra-talented Charlie Hunter. Then next time you’re at a party and say, “I’m listening to a lot of jazz these days,” you can add, “Right now I’m really digging Charlie Hunter. Man, that cat’s got some smokin’ chops!”

Noozhawk contributor Jeff Moehlis is an associate professor of mechanical engineering at UCSB. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his Web site, music-illuminati.com.

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