The Jazz Universe Inside My Head

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Friday, April 13, 2007

Charlie's New Trio

Charlie Hunter Trio

Last June (I didn’t want to say it but I will – it was 6.6.06 – the DAY of that ‘ol devil) I walked into the 8X10 down in Baltimore and was blown away by a fresh sound that I a-third-of anticipated. Charlie Hunter was there but the rest of his usual trio, saxophonist John Ellis and drummer Derrek Phillips, was nowhere to be seen. Instead, there was drum-destroyer Simon Lott and keyboardist Erik Deutsch.

Throughout the years, maybe since ’98 for me, Charlie Hunter shows had always been right on, but somewhere the trio got too good. That’s usually not a bad thing, I’ll admit. For Charlie’s sake though, I always thought that he was too outstanding to become a contemporary act - something that was enjoyed but expected. I wanted to see some daring turn and on that night in the Charm City I got my wish.

The driving force behind this new big bang is drummer Simon Lott. Ask anyone who’s heard the new trio and they’ll tell you the same thing. At that show last June I watched him and Charlie channeling. The end result was the finest show I’d heard out of the amazing guitarist in recent years.

I caught up with Simon before the trio’s gig at the Iron Horse in Northampton, MA on April 14 to talk about the trio, amongst other facets of his life.

Me: How did you get to be playing with Charlie and Erik?
Simon: John Ellis recommended me for the gig. I had played with Erik a couple of times beforehand.

When I saw you guys for the first time down in Baltimore at the 8X10 Club last June I was blown away by your energy (seriously), the way you and Charlie fed off each other, and just the whole band. I was like, where did these guys come from?
Baton Rouge!!!!!!!!

What's it like playing with Charlie?
It’s a whole different experience!! Haven’t played with anyone quite like Charlie.

I loved Charlie's old trio but I felt like they were so comfortable playing with each other that Charlie needed a new challenge, a new approach to the tunes…a new way to write music. Together, you guys sound so fresh and hungry. I'd have to say that I think this is the best trio he's had. How do you feel about the way that you guys are melding?
Well thank you. I like what we’re doing: there’s a serious pocket and lots of colors. Haven’t really heard a group doing what we’re doing: grooving this hard, but still getting really creative.

One thing that amazes me about you, Erik and Charlie is that you guys have an abundance of projects going on at all times. How do you work all that?
Well, we’re not on the road super-often, so it gives us all time for other projects.

Could you tell me about some of your others joints?
Well, where do I begin? I’ve got this group Renwicke that gets into some really humorous free improve. Four horns and drums. And then I’ve got a duo with this amazing guitarist Mike Gamble called Pain Relief. I’ve been playing with this group out in Oakland called The Dark Smile with saxophonist Joshua Smith and bassist Kurt Kotheimer. Sometimes we add this great trumpet/organist named Gene Baker too. I also play regularly with this great guitarist and singer David Mooney; we both moved up to New York from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. I’m also doing a couple of recordings soon that I’m very excited about. One with bassist Todd Sickafoose and includes some great musicians like Shane Endsley, Allison Miller and Adam Levy. The other is with vocalist Monika Heidemann, who always brings a fresh, creative, raw energy to her interesting works. Erik will be on the recording with Monika H.

What's your musical relationship like with Erik?
We had played a couple of times before we started with Charlie and I like his approach. He can really stretch. He’s into all kinds of music and he’s a great listener.

What have you been listening to (new, old, whatever)?
Lots of electronic artists like Nobukazu Takemura, Paul Lansky, Autechre, Takagi Masakatsu; and then I’m always listening to the New Orleans music (The Meters, Professor Longhair, George French, Willie Tee). That music always makes me happy.

Who are your main influences that helped develop you as a player?
All the people I play with and interact with on a daily basis.


Kenny Dorham Una Mas
Kieran Heloden and Steve Reid Tongues
Ornette Coleman The Art Of The Improvisors
John Coltrane One Up, One Down: Live At The Half Note
David Axelrod The Edge: David Axelrod At Capitol Records 1966-1970


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