Modern guitar master Charlie Hunter returns to Columbus with his Trio for two 9pm shows at Natalie’s on Wednesday, April 12th (tickets available here), and Thursday, April 13th (tickets available here). Hunter is touring in support of his album Everybody Has A Plan Until They Get Punched In The Mouth, recorded with a quartet of Kirk Knuffke (cornet), Bobby Previte (drums), and Curtis Fowlkes (trombone) and released by Snarky Puppy’s GroundUP Music in 2016. Hunter was kind enough to talk to me by phone last week about the album, the trio tour and more. Keep reading for insights into these shows and to watch videos from the album.
I really enjoy Everybody Has A Plan Until They Get Punched In The Mouth, both musically and as a title! It’s a Mike Tyson quote, correct? Why did you choose that as the title?
Charlie Hunter (CH): Oh thank you! Exactly, and all the song [titles] on the record are quotes from various and sundry people. But yeah, the title of the record is a Mike Tyson quote. I just think it’s hilarious, and I don’t know if he meant it metaphorically, but I sure like it metaphorically.
Did you have any particular goals in mind for the sound of Everybody Has A Plan when you went to record the album?
CH: Yeah, it was supposed to be my idea of a blues record, with the brass and the drums. Everyone was in the same room at this church in Hudson, New York. It’s a studio, but it’s a big old church that they took over, and that’s where that came from.
What inspired you to record an album with a brass front line (Fowlkes on trombone and Knuffke on cornet)?
CH: Fowlkes and Knuffke are killer [players]. That’s what I was looking for sonically too. That was definitely the vibe I wanted…the brass, and those two guys in particular, you know what I mean? Obviously I’ll make some records around an instrumentation, but a lot of the time it’s also around the individuals too.
I understand you are touring with Michael Blake on saxophones and George Sluppick on drums. Have you played with either of them much before?
CH: No I have not. But I’ve known George for years and I just met Michael Blake recently when we were both down in Mexico. We played a little bit together, and it was an absolute blast, so he really got on my radar. George – it’s looking like almost twenty years ago when he was in Robert Walter’s group, and we toured together then. It was a lot of fun. I’ve known him for years and he’s done a lot of different gigs, I can’t really keep up with them all. Not really jazz gigs, which is great for me. I’d rather have that in my music – having him come from Memphis and play that nasty blues shuffle. That’s what I’m looking for, you know?
As of now, is this a one-time tour for this group?
CH: Yeah, I’ve just been playing with various and sundry trios, people I’ve wanted to play with. You never know what will happen. It’s a crazy world.
With this lineup, I assume you’re still playing tunes from Everybody Has A Plan despite the instrumentation change? Any challenges or opportunities with shifting from brass to woodwinds on those tunes?
CH: Yeah, and all kinds of different tunes as well. There’s a lot of different stuff going on also. You just have to rearrange certain aspects of the tunes, and then you’ll have it. Certain melodic things, and also not having two horn players is a different kind of vibe. But it’s all good!
After recording for different labels and self-releasing some albums, how did the alliance with GroundUP and Snarky Puppy come together?
CH: I think Michael League had seen me play a little bit, and was interested in having someone on his label that wasn’t young. [Laughs] So he tapped me. Those guys are great, the sweetest bunch of people, and it was really, really fun. We’ll see what happens next.
Any plans for new recordings in the works?
CH: I actually just finished recording with this really cool Mexican singer-songwriter named Silvana Estrada and my friend Carter McLean who’s a great drummer. We did her tunes and it was just a trio. I was really into that. That will probably be the next record I release, sometime in December. If I can figure out how to get a visa for her to work, then we’re going to try to do some touring with that.
Anything else to say to central Ohioans thinking about coming to your shows?
CH: Please come out to our shows! Natalie’s has great pizza too. I’m really happy to have this gig, because they’re great people and it’s a really nice place to play.