Antacid jazz [antasidjaz] n. 1. the self-proclaimed musical style of the Charlie Hunter Trio: a combination of old-school jazz and contemporary pop and rock, originating in the Bay Area of California; 2.
a spoof of the media’s tendency to use the label “acid jazz” to describe the Trio’s music. See Charlie Hunter.
Charlie Hunter has been playing lead guitar and bass for The Charlie Hunter Trio since 1993 and for numerous other side projects since the ’80s. With his thirteenth album Copperopolis released last February, Hunter has spent the majority of the past 20 years recording and performing both here and abroad.
“I feel a real urgency in life and that’s reflected in my music,” Hunter has said about his work. “It’s my only creative outlet. It’s the only avenue I have to scream about my life and what’s happening in other people’s world. It’s my fail-safe antidote to the world.”
Like most guitarists in today’s music industry, Hunter is capable of playing lead guitar and bass. However, unlike almost every other guitarist in the world and in history, Charlie Hunter possesses the uncanny ability to play them both at the same time. With his custom-made eight-stringed guitar (three bass strings, five guitar strings, and two pickups), Hunter has wowed his audiences and peers and created a following amongst jazz and rock fans with his psychedelic jazz improvisation and legendary technique.
Growing up in Berkeley, California, Hunter accredited the Bay Area and its unending plethora of different musical cultures for exposing him to the genres that influence his music. Like many other neighborhood kids, Hunter started taking guitar lessons as a teenager from Joe Satriani. According to Hunter, initially he kept his interest for jazz under wraps, instead dabbling in “blues, rockabilly, funk and soul.”
“During high school, friends of mine who played in the high school jazz band were seen as nerds, so I didn’t want to associate with them,” Hunter said. “I started listening to jazz albums independently at the Berkeley Public Library.”
Hunter referenced 18 as the age when he discovered Charlie Parker, Charlie Christian and John Coltrane, and jazz swallowed him whole.
After acquiring his first custom-made instrument, a seven-stringed guitar, in the ’80s, Hunter took off full-force. After a short stint of playing on the streets in Europe, Hunter returned home and joined forces with renowned political rapper, Michael Franti, first as a duo and then as part of the group Disposable Heroes
“It was interesting, but that whole pop art scene was an overall drag,” Hunter said about the experience. “I love pop music, but it’s a lot different when you get to sit back and be on the receiving end. It was difficult for me as an artist who’s dedicated to searching for the spiritual core of music to have to deal with being in a situation where the quest is in the most superficial, consumer-driven aspects of the recording industry.”
After separating from the group in 1993 to pursue his love for jazz, Hunter formed The Charlie Hunter Trio with two old friends. Obtaining a weekly Tuesday night slot at the Elbo Room in San Francisco, the Trio was discovered by Prawn Song Records, spinning off their first album, self-titled, in 1994. Since his takeoff, Hunter has evolved his group into
a quartet, a quintet, and back into a trio, rotating members, experimenting in side projects, appearing on Conan O’Brien, and releasing records on such labels as Blue Note Records, Warner Brothers, and most recently Ropeadope.
Hunter’s mission when it comes to playing music is to expose contemporary society to an improvisational jazz style reminiscent of Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, and Louis Armstrong, with a pop/rock influence.
“I think our music is an alternative to the suit-and-tie club that says you have to be well-to-do and super-intellectual to understand jazz music,” Hunter said. “We’re jazz musicians, but we’re jazz musicians from [your] generation. That’s who we share aspects of a common life with and that’s who we are trying
These days, when Hunter isn’t on the road with The Charlie Hunter Trio, most recently featuring Erik Deutsch on keyboards and Simon Lott on drums, or his other three current projects, he’s taking care of his two kids.
About Saturday’s upcoming show, Hunter said, “I love playing Champaign. No one’s going to light themselves on fire, but it will be lots of fun. One of my oldest friends is a professor there and I look forward to hanging out with him. Give him a shout out for me. BIG PROPS to Tom Ginsburg, owner of probably the best vinyl collection
Check out The Charlie Hunter Trio (and the infamous guitar) at the Canopy Club Saturday, Sept. 2 for an early show at 7 p.m. with doors opening at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 in advance and $17 at the door.