Listen to this song by jazz and instrumental rock wunderkinds the Charlie Hunter Trio with their post-bop take on Kurt Cobain’s “Come As You Are”, a key cut from the trio’s LP Bing, Bing, Bing!, released in 1995.
I remember when I first heard this version of the Nirvana tune. It was Toronto, Yonge St., at the HMV there in 1995 when this record came out. I remember thinking two things. First, that I loved the interplay between the bass and the guitar. The bass player was playing the central riff, while the guitar player punched out the melody line. Second, that it was so great that jazz musicians were becoming less snobby about rock music, and were getting to the point where the idea of the jazz standard when performing tunes audiences know was beginning to expand.
Subsequently of course, I learned a few things about this version of the song, and about the Charlie Hunter Trio.
First, that bass player I was so impressed by doesn’t exist. And that in fact the guitar player punching out the melody line, one Charlie Hunter, is actually playing that bassline at the same time. Charlie Hunter’s guitar has eight strings, with extra bass strings to account for his lack of a bass player in this group. Maybe this band set up was made to impress. Well, it worked – even on me, who isn’t really in favour of flashy soloing and musical dexterity for its own sake.
Second, I learned that these guys were mostly the exception to the rule when it came to acknowledging the melodic value in rock music as music to structure a jazz arrangement around. There are a few more, of course. Herbie Hancock, for instance, has made inroads into expanding the vocabularly of material around which to base jazz exploration. But, jazz is still willfully walled off from public consumption as far as establishing a new canon of jazz standards. I really think this is a shame, since there is so much to be explored beyond the traditional American songbook.
The band’s sound isn’t limited by straight ahead jazz, but incorporates funk, instrumental rock, and even a touch of 60s-flavoured psychedelia. To hear it, and for more information about the Charlie Hunter Trio, check out the Charlie Hunter Trio site.