Charlie Hunter Quartet: Natty Dread

COMPOSERS: Charlie Hunter Quartet
LABELS: Blue Note
PERFORMER: Charlie Hunter (g); Calder Spanier (as); Kenny Brooks (ts); Scott Amendola (d)


Despite its title, Natty Dread is definitely not another pleasant jazz reggae work-out.

This third studio outing for the California-based guitarist could as easily have been stimulated by a Beach Boys LP or a classic soul number from Curtis Mayfield, Hunter points out in the liner notes. He was looking for strong melodies and harmonies to mess with, and the iconic Bob Marley album, covered here in its entirety, fitted the bill.

Bob Marley fans hoping to sing along will be disappointed: the interpretations are unexpected and often provocative. ‘No Woman No Cry’ opens as the Tennessee Waltz and is Bill Frisell-ian in its ensuing circumspection; unlike the lolloping original version of ‘Bend Down Low’, Hunter barrels along, with cheeky quotes from other Marley tracks thrown in for almost subliminal reference.


Spanier and Brooks’s saxophones are loquacious and irreverent throughout, the dynamics preserved by issuing first takes in most cases. Hunter’s technique on the eight-string guitar oozes confidence and the range of voices is ear-boggling; not only does he play simultaneous bass lines, just like a B3 organist does, but he runs the sample through a spinning Leslie speaker to get the authentic sound. GB