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Making music, not selling it

Wren Wertin

And that’s just what eight-string guitarist Charlie Hunter is doing – taking the ideas and running. Hunter will play Vail’s 8150 tonight.

Having bagged nine albums, he’s not exactly unwise in the ways of the music world. It just happens that making music is more important to him than selling it.

“It doesn’t make sense for me to be on a big label,” he said. “I know exactly how many records I can sell, and I’d rather be on a label that is really into the music and have a good time.”



The music – his music – is always changing. It’s most definitely based in jazz, but doesn’t fit tidily into a little box. Taking the genre’s reputation for organic morphing literally, jazz is a springboard for bigger things.

“Songs from the Analog Playground,” released in September of 2001, was his last album with Blue Note … and it packs a punch. The beat of the city runs through it: traffic jams, conflicting rhythms, melodic interludes, foreign species walking side-by-side.



“I knew it was going to be my last record with Blue Note, and the last time I’d ever be able to afford singers,” he said, laughing. “In the beginning (with Blue Note), it was great. The first two records got me a lot of notoriety and press, kick-started my career. But after a while I realized the kind of music I’m going to make isn’t going to sell what they want.”

Instead of changing the music, he changed the label. He is currently traveling with John Ellis (tenor sax), Alan Ferber (trombone), Gregoire Maret (chromatic harmonica) and Derek Phillips (drums). Hunter will be on his trademark eight-string guitar, made especially for him by Ralph Novak. The guitar has the range of a bass and a guitar; his concept of the instrument takes it into the realms of bass, guitar and drums.

Though he’s the bandleader, his bandmates get plenty of play time, and sometimes even take over. The horns, especially, have a definite voice within his music.



“I’m just a guitar player really, still trying to work with musicians that make me move,” he said.

Just a guitar player who happened to take guitar lessons with his local guitar teacher, Joe Satriani. He bought his first guitar for $7, when he was 12, and knew almost immediately he would pursue it for a lifetime. Before he set out on his own, he played guitar and bass in the Michael Franti-led rap group Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy.

Hunter will be playing a bit in the style of “Analog,” but he’s already going in a different direction – one he can’t describe.

“I can’t really explain music without playing it,” he said. “I just really want to connect with the audience and make sure they’re going to have a good time.”

Because it’s improv-based, there’s room for changing it up and growing on stage.

Hunter plays 8150 tonight at 10. For more information call the venue at 479-0607.

Wren Wertin can be reached via e-mail at wrenw@vaildaily.com or phone at 949-0555 ext. 618.


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