Eight Strings In A Holding Pattern

No one is going to call Charlie Hunter lazy.

With a definable sound that is the product of his own invention — the eight-string guitar — the guitarist has completed five albums for the prestigious Blue Note label, guested on discs by New Orleans drummer Stanton Moore and backed R&B crooner D'Angelo, all the while remaining one of the most sought-after players in the jazz world.

But despite, or perhaps because of, his work load, Hunter finds himself in all-too-familiar territory on Charlie Hunter. Eight-string dexterity and technical wizardry aside, Hunter progresses only slightly from last year's enjoyable but sparse Duo session with percussionist Leon Parker.

Outside of some nice horn playing by saxophonist Peter Apfelbaum and trombonist Josh Roseman, Charlie Hunter lags behind the excellent All Kooked Out from 1998, on which Moore led Hunter and a funkier New Orleans procession through, well, funkier material.

A promising funk bass riff on "Rendezvous Avec La Vèritè" (RealAudio excerpt) opens Charlie Hunter, with Hunter working his Univibe effects pedal to create his trademark watery-organ-type guitar backdrop.

The full band, which includes percussionists Stephen Chopek and Robert Perkins, propels the shuffling funk-noir "Two For Bleu" (RealAudio excerpt), with Roseman and Hunter delivering sterling solos. Though it was named for the great soul singer, the Hunter/Parker duet "Al Green" sounds more like hard-bop guitarist Grant Green armed with an unengaging chorus pedal.

Charlile Hunter shines brightest on "Cloud Spitter" (RealAudio excerpt), with its effectively subdued plunger mute solo from Roseman, and on the bluesy, low-profile funk of "Flau Flau."

All in all, it's another polished effort from a talent who, at least lately, has become a bit too polished for his own good.