Charlie Hunter (born May 23, 1967) is an American guitarist, composer and bandleader.
First coming to prominence in the early 1990s, Hunter has recorded 17 albums. Hunter plays custom-made seven and eight-string guitars, on which he simultaneously plays basslines, rhythm guitar, and solos. Critic Sean Westergaard describes Hunter's guitar 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."
Hunter was born in Rhode Island. When he was four his mom packed him and his younger sister in an old yellow school bus and headed west. After several years living on a commune in Mendocino County they settled in Berkeley, California. Hunter graduated from Berkeley High School and took lessons from famed guitar teacher Joe Satriani. At eighteen he moved to Paris. Hunter has stated that it was his experience busking on the streets of Paris that provided him with "on the job training" because he busked for 8 to 12 hours a day to make ends meet. Returning to the Bay area, Hunter played a 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.
Since the debut of his self-titled Charlie Hunter Trio (which included Dave Ellis on sax and Jay Lane on drums) in 1993, Charlie Hunter has recorded seventeen albums. He co-founded Garage A Trois, a jazz fusion band with Stanton Moore and Skerik. He has collaborated with Bobby Previte for an ongoing project entitled "Groundtruther." He also recorded and toured for Bobby Previte's The Coalition of the Willing in 2006. He appears on acclaimed jazz bassist Christian McBride's Live At Tonic. On both The Coalition of the Willing and Live at Tonic he plays 6-string guitars. His earliest known released recording without unusual guitars is as a guest bassist for the band Sweet Potato from California's East Bay. The song "Crankshaft" can be found on the Ubiquity Records compilation Mo Cookin from 1994 and the song "Monkey Wrench" can be found on the Ubiquity Records compilation Still Cookin from 1995. He also played guitar on the track "Me and Chuck" from the Les Claypool and the Holy Mackerel album, Highball with the Devil, released in 1996.
Charlie played in the band T.J. Kirk active 1990s that merged the music of Thelonious Monk, James Brown, and Rahsaan Roland Kirk. T.J Kirk is: Will Bernard - Guitar, John Schott - Guitar, Charlie Hunter - 8-string guitar and Scott Amendola - Drums. Three recordings of the time are called: T.J. Kirk August 8, 1995, If Four Was One September 24, 1996 and Talking Only Makes it Worse released in 2005. Hunter contributed to three songs for D'Angelo's Voodoo (2000), including "The Root". Hunter has stated that the session for the song was the most challenging session he has worked on.
In the summer of 2007, Charlie toured with a trio that included New York keyboardist Erik Deutsch and New York/New Orleans drummer Simon Lott. This trio recorded the July, 2007 Fantasy release Mistico. In 2008, Hunter recorded his first self-release, Baboon Strength. Featured on the record are Erik Deutch on keys and Tony Mason on drums. Hunter returned to the studio in Fall of 2009 to record with drummer Eric Kalb.
In 2008, eminent clarinetist and composer Ben Goldberg put together a project entitled "Go Home" with Charlie on guitar(s), Ron Miles (trumpet) and Scott Amendola (drums). The alternately funky, beautiful, spacious and deep compositions showcase all the musicians. The group performed at the Jazz Standard in New York from October 29 to November 1, 2009 with Curtis Fowlkes on trombone, replacing Miles on trumpet.
Hunter was also an inaugural member of the Independent Music Awards' judging panel to support independent artists.
Charlie Hunter is represented by Tree Lawn Artists, Inc.
Hunter currently plays a custom-made, seven-string guitar made by Jeff Traugott.
Previously, Hunter played a custom-made, eight-string guitar made by luthier Ralph Novak of Novax Guitars. He played chords and lead guitar solos on the top five strings (tuned ADGBe), and simultaneously played bass lines on the bottom 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.
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-A#-D# on the bass and A#-D#-G#-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-A#-D on the guitar.
He has recently begun using Headstrong amps. Headstrong is based in Santa Cruz, California.