Recalling his debut as a leader more than a decade ago, guitarist Charlie Hunter steps out in a trio, with John Ellis on tenor sax, bass clarinet and flute as well as drummer Derrek Phillips (both alu

Recalling his debut as a leader more than a decade ago, guitarist Charlie Hunter steps out in a trio, with John Ellis on tenor sax, bass clarinet and flute as well as drummer Derrek Phillips (both alums of Hunter's quintet). Standout tracks on "Friends Seen and Unseen" include the funky sigh of "One for the Kelpers"; the sly, drunken sway of "Lulu's Crawl"; and the rolling groove of "My Son the Hurricane." But perhaps the best cut is "Soweto's Where It's At," which features Hunter's guitar sounding like an organ in a setting that is as worshipful, reverent and bluesy as any gospel hymn. (The range of colors that Hunter coaxes out of his eight-string is simply amazing.) The transparency of the trio format is a testament to how tight and comfortable with each other these players are, and the threesome's freshness, spontaneity and subtlety will reward repeat listens.—AT

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