(HUDSON, N.Y.) – The night after the newly formed Charlie Hunter Trio debuts its new album, “Let the Bells Ring On,” at Joe’s Pub in Manhattan, Hunter brings his new lineup and music to Club Helsinki Hudson, the new home base for the trio’s drummer, music visionary Bobby Previte, on Thursday, June 11, at 8pm, for an exclusive, small-town club engagement on a tour that has the famed acid-jazz guitarist and his henchman, including the legendary jazz trombonist Curtis Fowlkes, playing gigs at major clubs in Philadelphia, DC, San Diego, Oakland, Boston, and Phoenix.
It’s by no means not the first time seven-string guitar wizard Hunter has played the Helsinki stage – he’s been a longtime favorite of the club going back to its Great Barrington days, even when he was headlining jam-band festivals. Nor is it the first time that Hunter and Previte have shared the Helsinki stage – the two were one-half of Steven Bernstein’s wild and crazy avant-jazz-pop quartet, Omaha Diner, along with Skerik, which played the club in November 2013. (Check out my review of that great concert here).
But history is being made in the collaboration of these three. Previte and Fowlkes — a charter member of the Lounge Lizards and the Jazz Passengers — were essential instigators of the Downtown scene in the 1970s, and while Hunter gained acclaim as a performer on the jam-band festival circuit of the 1990s, his heart and musical aspirations have always been dialed into the intersection of jazz and experimental or avant-garde music, sometimes called acid jazz or post-bop, that grew out of that scene.
Hunter and Previte have toured and recorded together in various all-star cooperative ensembles, such as the Coalition of the Willing (with fellow renegades Steven Bernstein, Skerik, and Marco Benevento) and more recently Omaha Diner.
For this new trio effort – which incidentally was recorded right here in Columbia County at Bobby Previte’s studio, Three Horses in a Wood – Hunter was looking to showcase a different side of Previte, who performs frequently at Helsinki Hudson with his Voodoo Orchestra North project devoted to mining the musical nuances of Miles Davis’s landmark jazz-funk opus, “Bitches Brew.”
“He’s probably known as a composer more than anything else,” Hunter says of Previte. “But he’s always been one of my favorite drummers. He came up in the 1960s, and he has the beat. You have to have lived it to have that feel. Because of his composer’s mind, we can play the simplest groove and it becomes something really exciting and compositional.”
Truth is Previte is my favorite drummer in the world. In my imaginary all-star band, he holds down the drum seat. I could listen to him play anything and for any amount of time. He’s full of surprises at every turn, he displays such sheer, infectious joy in his playing, and man, does he rock it!
Word on the new trio is that it explores a variety of sonic spaces, ranging from the foreboding tension and release of original tunes including “Anthem: USA” and the tautly cinematic “Fellini Farm Team,” the antic hoedown of “Hillbilly Heroine Chic” and the churchy waltz “Spence.”
After several years of focusing on his stripped-down duo with drummer Scott Amendola, Hunter wanted to expand his textural and orchestrational possibilities. He had called on Fowlkes for his 2003 quintet album “Right Now Move” and couldn’t resist his huge, soul-drenched sound and vivid palette for his new trio.
“Conceptually I’ve been doing a duo thing with Scott that I love, but I wanted to have that third voice,” Hunter says. “I wanted somebody with a vibe who understands free improv and Al Green and Frank Sinatra and Sam Cooke. I wanted someone who can sing on their horn. I needed Curtis.”
“This trio can go anywhere,” concludes Hunter. “I envision it growing as we continue to get out on the road together. I think we’ll find it leads us to incredible places, musically speaking.”