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Blue Note

Usually, when an eponymous album comes out after several adventurous theme albums, it’s either an erratic mess or a masterpiece of singular vision. Charlie Hunter’s latest record fits in the masterpiece category. With Leon Parker’s percolating percussion and arrangements driving most of Hunter’s vampy compositions, Charlie Hunter seems to extend Hunter and Parker’s sly duet album, Duo. On this outing, Hunter thickens the grooves with saxophonist Peter Apfelbaum, trombonist Josh Roseman, and percussionists Stephen Chopek and Robert Perkins. The sextet burns brightest on the infectious “Two for Bleu” and the twangy “Flau Flau.” Hunter can still master minimalism, as he shows on “Al Green,” a mesmerizing duet with Parker, on the popping Latin-tinged rendition of Thelonious Monk’s “Epistrophy,” and on the album’s most poignant offering, Donny Hathaway’s “Someday We’ll All Be Free,” which finds Hunter solo. Hunter’s improvisational skills on the eight-string guitar allow him to play the bass lines while developing nifty melodies out of funky riffs. He can also manipulate his ax to sound like a Hammond B-3 organ. But it’s his lack of flash and melodic phrasing that make him such a delight to hear. —John Murph