Charlie Hunter

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Charlie Hunter
Hunter at SPACE, Portland, Maine, February 25, 2006
Hunter at SPACE, Portland, Maine, February 25, 2006
Background information
Born (1967-05-23) May 23, 1967 (age 56)
Rhode Island, U.S.
GenresJazz, jazz fusion, acid jazz, jazz rock, funk
Years active1990–present
LabelsBlue Note, Ropeadope

Charlie Hunter (born May 23, 1967) is an American guitarist, composer, and bandleader. First coming to prominence in the early 1990s, Hunter plays custom-made seven- and eight-string guitars on which he simultaneously plays bass lines, chords, and melodies. Critic Sean Westergaard described Hunter's technique as "mind-boggling...he's an agile improviser with an ear for great tone, and always has excellent players alongside him in order to make great music, not to show off."[1] Hunter's technique is rooted in the styles of jazz guitarists Joe Pass and Tuck Andress, two of his biggest influences, who blended bass notes with melody in a way that created the illusion of two guitars.[2]


Charlie Hunter performs at the Bennett Alliance Music Fest in Rochester, New York (July 21, 2007)

A native of Rhode Island, Hunter was around guitars at an early age because his mother repaired them for a living.[3] He and his mother and sister lived for several years on a commune in Mendocino County, California, then settled in Berkeley. Hunter attended Berkeley High School and took lessons from rock guitarist Joe Satriani. At eighteen he moved to Paris.[3] He has stated that busking in Paris gave him on the job training.[4] Returning to San Francisco, he played seven-string guitar and organ in Michael Franti's political rap group, The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy. In 1992, they were one of the opening acts for U2's Zoo TV Tour.

On his debut album, Charlie Hunter Trio (1993), he played seven-string guitar with Dave Ellis on saxophone and Jay Lane on drums.[3] On the next album, Bing, Bing, Bing! (Blue Note, 1995), he played an eight-string guitar custom built by Ralph Novak. In the 1990s, Hunter played in the band T. J. Kirk, which got its name from three musicians whose music it covered: Thelonious Monk, James Brown, and Rahsaan Roland Kirk.[3] The band released two albums before breaking up.[2]

Hunter co-founded Garage a Trois, a jazz fusion band[3] with Stanton Moore and Skerik,[5] and Groundtruther with Bobby Previte.[2][3] In the summer of 2007, he toured in a trio with keyboardist Erik Deutsch and drummer Simon Lott[3] and recorded the album Mistico (Fantasy, 2007).

He performed on three songs on D'Angelo's album Voodoo (2000), including "The Root".[6] He has stated that the session for the song was the most challenging session he has worked on.[6]

He was an inaugural member of the Independent Music Awards' judging panel to support independent artists.[7]


Hunter currently plays 6 and 7 string guitars made by Hybrid Guitars Co. Hybrid Guitars begin in 2015 when he teamed up with luthiers Clay Conner and Wes Lambe to produce fanned-fret instruments to his specifications. Previously, Hunter played custom-made seven-string guitar/s made by Jeff Traugott, eight-string guitar/s made by luthier Ralph Novak of Novax Guitars. He played chords and lead guitar solos on the bottom five strings (tuned ADGBE), and simultaneously played bass lines on the top three strings (tuned EAD). With the addition of a Hughes & Kettner Tube Rotosphere (a Leslie rotary speaker simulator), his unique style produced a sound similar to that of a Hammond organ—an instrument he set out to imitate.[8]

In 2006, Hunter removed the top guitar string and had the neck of his guitar reworked and now plays a modified 7-string on the formerly-8 string body. Hunter has mentioned that because of his small hands, he had to move out of position to make use of the 8th string and thus wasn't using it much. A change in Hunter's style away from the organ sound into a more blues and distortion based sound happened at the same time. After removing the 8th string, Hunter retuned all of the strings up a half step: F-Bb-Eb on the bass and Bb-Eb-Ab-C on the guitar. As of 2008, he had once again retuned up another whole step: G-C-F on the bass and C-F-Bb-D on the guitar.[9]


As leader/co-leader[edit]

With Groundtruther

  • Latitude (Thirsty Ear, 2004)
  • Longitude (Thirsty Ear, 2005)
  • Altitude (Thirsty Ear, 2007)

With SuperBlue (with Kurt Elling)

  • SuperBlue (Edition, 2021)
  • SuperBlue: The London Sessions (Live) (EP) (Edition, 2022)
  • SuperBlue: Guilty Pleasures (feat. Nate Smith) (Edition, 2023)
  • SuperBlue: The Iridescent Spree (Edition, 2023)

As sideman[edit]

With Garage a Trois

With T. J. Kirk

  • T. J. Kirk (Warner Bros., 1994)
  • If Four Was One (Warner Bros., 1996)
  • Talking Only Makes it Worse (Ropeadope, 2003) [Live performance recorded 1997]

With Bobby Previte

With others



  • Late Night with Conan O'Brien (1997)
  • SOLOS: the jazz sessions (2004)
  • Rochester, New York Jazz Festival (2009)
  • JazzTown (2021)
  • Who Killed Jazz (2022)


  1. ^ Sean Westergaard (2005-03-29). "Steady Groovin' - Charlie Hunter | Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 2016-07-20.
  2. ^ a b c Meredith, Bill. "Charlie Hunter | Biography & History". AllMusic. Retrieved 24 January 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Yanow, Scott (2013). The Great Jazz Guitarists: The Ultimate Guide. San Francisco: Backbeat. p. 98. ISBN 978-1-61713-023-6.
  4. ^ "Charlie Hunter Guitar Legend". Retrieved 2016-07-20.
  5. ^ "Music + Culture + Clothing". Archived from the original on 2016-04-19. Retrieved 2016-07-20.
  6. ^ a b "Charlie Hunter". Charlie Hunter. Archived from the original on 2016-03-03. Retrieved 2016-07-20.
  7. ^ "1st Annual IMA Artist Judges". Independent Music Awards (IMAs). Archived from the original on 2011-07-26. Retrieved 2019-08-26.
  8. ^ Hansen, Liane (April 13, 2003). "Charlie Hunter, Live in Studio 4A". NPR Music.
  9. ^ Hunter, Charlie. "Charlie Hunter Has 'Neglected To Inform You'". Retrieved 2016-07-20.
  10. ^ "Popular Uprising". Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. 17 June 2000. pp. 28–. ISSN 0006-2510.
  11. ^ "Calm Down Cologne, by Garage a Trois".
  12. ^ Cantor, Dave (September 2018). "Reviews: Rob Dixon Trio - Coast To Crossroads (Self Release)". DownBeat. Retrieved August 26, 2019.

External links[edit]