Charlie Hunter: Living the Music

More interviews this week from the great! If you don’t regularly go there—and if you have found this site, I’m sure you do go there—you should…it’s everything you want to know about today’s jazz.

Eight-string guitarist Charlie Hunter has stunned audiences for years with his virtuosic ability to play simultaneous bass and guitar lines, sounding at times more like a Hammond organist than a guitarist. Whether playing in a quartet, quintet, trio, duo or solo format (he’s done plenty of recording and gigging in all these configurations), Hunter’s groove-based jazz/rock hybrid is immediately recognizable, and has produced some classic albums. Here, Hunter is interviewed in 2005 by Paul Olson and spoke about Hunter’s collaborative band Garage à Trois, his experimental Groundtruther collaborations with Bobby Previte, the Charlie Hunter Trio, his take on the jamband scene, his thoughts on comping, his much-vaunted bass/guitar technique, and more.

AAJ: I haven’t spoken about how you use your eight-string guitar to play simultaneous bass and guitar parts because, even though you’re known for that, to me it’s like talking about a tenor player about his horn: it’s just what you do. But I wonder if you’d explain how you do the simultaneous parts; not how you trained your mind and fingers, but what your hands do to play this stuff. Is your right hand doing all the work?

CH: Well, no. It’s too damn complicated; that’s the problem with it. The right hand is kind of the execution hand, rhythmically. If you think about it, there’s all of the rhythmic combinations, the counterpoint between the thumb and the fingers—thumb playing the bass, fingers generally playing the guitar. Tons of that kind of counterpart going on. Then you have the left hand, which is the conception hand, dealing, in any given millisecond throughout the music, with your four fingers having to act as a team. Then you put those two hands together and that creates a third set of combinations between those two hands. So, basically, through experience you just learn millions and millions of these kinds of combinations. The more you learn, the easier it is to get to the music.

Click here to read Charlie Hunter: Living the Music