Charlie Hunter Quintet 

Right Now Move

Too often, jazz is way too intimidating for nonaficionados. It's highfalutin, elitist, and complex, and for those of us who still can't distinguish between a contrabass and Contra Costa County (or a viola and Vallejo), it's hard to wrap our ears around it, especially when there's plenty of user-friendly rock and rap a mere double-click away. The Charlie Hunter Quintet's latest disc, however, is not your father's jazz -- or your grandfather's, for that matter. The album is closer to a Saturn than an Oldsmobile, which is to say it's young, hip, and can still get you where you need to go.

Not that the CHQ doesn't possess enough chops to warrant the jazz tag. The group's sound, which revolves around Hunter's eight-string guitar/bass instrument thang, weaves syncopated Latin rhythms, bluesy harmonica wails, funky melodic runs, soulful organ riffs, piquant horns, and Martini-shaker hi-hats into a tapestry that's all the more elegant for its simplicity. It's impossible for any East Bay resident not to feel the loosey-goosey grooves of "Oakland" and "Le Bateau Ivre." Regional pride aside, "Freak Fest," "Mali," and "Mestre Tata" are just as flavorful. Hunter even throws traditionalists a bone with a version of "Wade in the Water," the gospel standard popularized by Ramsey Lewis, which comes off as modern yet reverential.

Right Now Move revels in a casual vibe that's down to earth, pedestrian, and blue-collar, but with enough sophistication to impress others with your great musical taste. It'll make perfect background music for your next dinner party, even if your chairs are milk crates, your tables are fashioned from concrete blocks and plywood, and your plates still have IKEA stickers on them.

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