Scott Amendola and Charlie Hunter – Pucker (2013)

Charlie Hunter and Scott Amendola have been performing together in perfect symmetry on and off for twenty years, now. But the master guitarist and master drummer each own two distinctively different songwriting styles, as their latest two releases together make clear.

Last year, Hunter returned from a recording hiatus to make Not Getting Behind Is The New Getting Ahead with Amendola, a back-to-basics, straight-to-tape encounter with his erstwhile drummer credited to both, but featuring Charlie’s songs. This year and this time around, it’s all Amendola compositions — except for one — and Pucker can’t help but to depart from Behind for that very reason even if the basic plot is the same everywhere else.

Amendola’s loose, spare melodies suggest more than it overtly shows, mirroring his own drumming style and Hunter’s sensitive playing and obvious familiarity to the widely regarded percussionist makes him the ideal front-end conduit for these songs. Well, that, and Hunter’s unique ability to practice three roles at once: bass, rhythm guitar and lead guitar.

All of those things are fine and good, but it’s the feel, that down-home, Momma’s fried chicken feel, that takes these tunes across the finish line. Amendola weaves such a loose ‘n’ lively groove on “Leave On” (dedicated to Levon Helm) that you can strongly sense Hunter is having fun tilling this fertile ground and they even sync up the notes to the beats at certain spots to emphasize both. Twenty years of telepathy gets you stuff like that.

Both of these guys have a genuine affinity for New Orleans RnB that’s prominent throughout their careers, and that comes out on the Crescent City pulse of “Pucker.” Hunter digs deep into soul on one of the slower numbers, “Deep Eyes,” and “Rubbed Out” hints at reggae in another example of the two’s perfect syncopation. “The Mighty” boasts a mighty funky bass line and although he does this in his sleep, it’s astonishing how Hunter can play around that with his bottom five strings. Equally as astonishing is how closely Amendola can track all of Hunter’s twists from behind his drum kit.

One of the real highlight tracks is the one song Amendola didn’t pen, but was written for him by his grandfather, the late jazz guitarist Tony Guttuso. “Scott’s Tune” has a gently swaying beat married to a strong, blues-based harmony, topped by the relaxed way they put together all these parts.

Pucker is a deceptively simple set of tunes ideal for chilling out listeners, but in its ostensibly straightforward manner, reveals the nuance and sophistication of its participants. Even within this casual setting comes forth serious musicianship. Scott Amendola and Charlie Hunter just can’t help that.

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Pucker is now available for sale, by SAZi Records. Visit Scott Amendola’s website for more info. If you’re on the West Coast, catch Amendola and Hunter performing together live this December. Click here for details.

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is a CPA and mid-level data analyst for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.

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