by Kevin Clifford
If the title of Charlie Hunter’s newest record, Everybody Has A Plan Until They Get Punched In The Mouth, doesn’t intrigue you, or make you laugh the slightest bit, you can stop reading now. Since 1995, the virtuoso guitarist/bassist (he somehow plays them simultaneously) has released eighteen albums varying from bebop jazz trio to solo eight-string guitar to the current collection of experimental, New Orleans-soaked, blues.
All instrumental tunes, you will hear tinges of blues/funk icons B.B. King and The Meters, avant-garde/bebop jazzers Ornette Coleman and Charles Mingus, and at times, eruptions similar to the drum/guitar dueling Black Keys. For those stuck in pop-music land, don’t mistake this for a bunch of people just ‘jamming’. Yes, at times the groove will stumble, sway, and stagger like day drinkers of New Orleans, but it’s all intentional.
Hunter aims to tease. Think it’s time for the catchy chorus? Nope, there might not be a chorus. The riddle keeps stringing you along with supporting musicians Bobby Previte (drums), Curtis Fowlkes (trombone), and cornetist Kirk Knuffke, adding their eclectic conversation. After a few songs, it starts to feel like we’re witnessing old friends reuniting, drinking, and sharing all of their greatest memories. Previte and Hunter weave seamlessly in and out of different feels, rhythms, and pulses while Knuffke and Fowlkes provide harmonies and solos reminiscent of Louis Armstrong. While at times cacophonous, everyone here respects the importance of silence in musical conversation. The spaces matter just as much as the shouts.
The song “We Don’t Want Nobody Nobody Sent” demonstrates the swaying motion of the album in its transitions from straight to swing to a hybrid of the two. If there was a musical highway, Previte and Hunter fight for the fast lane finally leading off-road from 1:53 to 2:25. Then there’s “Big Bill’s Blues.” A tune that makes you think the show is taking it down “for the ladies.” Wrong. Wait until it basically shouts, ‘Why the fuck should you get what you want?’. The album title holds true.
Watch this live session of “No Money, No Honey” and listen to Bobby Previte suggest to “leave the end to chance,” a phrase that couldn’t better illustrate the beauty of chaos that band-leaders like Charlie Hunter truly understand.