Despite lineup changes, Charlie Hunter's trio has always consisted of a sax player and a drummer in addition to Hunter's seven- or eight-string guitar heroics. After about a decade with that template, John Ellis added a bit of keyboard and melodica to his sax for Copperopolis, almost presciently setting the stage for Mistico. With Ellis moving on to concentrate on a solo career, Hunter decided to form a brand new trio, bringing in Simon Lott on drums and Erik Deutsch on keyboards. That's right: no sax. The varied keyboards vs. sax give the album a sound that's less overtly jazz than previous efforts, but Copperopolis also showcased Hunter and company in more of a rock mood and that trend continues on Mistico. Hunter also brought in Scott Harding (aka Scotty Hard) to co-produce, pushing the envelope a bit and bringing some of the subtle magic studio touches he has used with the likes of Sex Mob, DJ Logic and Medeski, Martin & Wood. Hunter always gets great tone, whether playing with tremolo ("Estranged"), wah-wah/fuzz ("Special Shirt") or a nice distorted twang ("Balls"). His whole playing concept is totally unique and impressive from both a technical and musical standpoint. Deutsch switches freely between piano and Rhodes, sometimes adding some more spaced out sounds via Casio and acting as a worthy foil to Hunter's guitar. Lott is in the pocket all the way, giving the tunes just what they need rhythmically (and even getting a brief solo on "Spoken Word"). And it's another great set of songs too, from the soul-influenced "Speakers Built In" to the slow and slinky title cut (with cool dub effects) to the rocking "Balls" and the loopy melody of "Wizard Sleeve." Mistico is another winner from a guy with an uncommonly consistent track record of quality releases. The Charlie Hunter Trio is dead. Long live the Charlie Hunter Trio.
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AllMusic Review by Sean Westergaard