Billboard Bits: Charlie Hunter, Tom McRae, Cutting Crew

News on Charlie Hunter, Tom McRae, Cutting Crew

Groove ArmadaProgressive jazz guitarist Charlie Hunter has set a March 25 release for his ninth album, "Right Now Move." The set will be his first for Ropeadope Records after releasing seven albums through Blue Note. Breaking away from his earlier trio format, the new album finds Hunter in a quintet rounded out by chromatic harmonica player Gregorie Maret, horn players John Ellis (tenor sax, bass clarinet) and Curtis Fowlkes (trombone), and drummer Derek Philips.

"I'm really coming up and playing different kinds of grooves," Hunter says of the Scott Harding-produced album. "I try to distill all the music I love into something that sounds organic." Hunter's last album, 2001's "Songs From the Analog Playground," debuted at No. 9 on Billboard's Top Contemporary Jazz Albums chart.

-- Barry A. Jeckell, N.Y.

Groove ArmadaAcclaimed English singer/songwriter Tom McRae will follow his self-titled 2000 debut album, which was nominated for that year's Mercury Music Prize, with "Just Like Blood," set for a Feb. 3 U.K. release on db. The 10-track, 40-minute set was produced by Ben Hillier, whose credits include records by Blur and Elbow.

The self-effacing McRae says: "The themes of the album are again dislocation and dissatisfaction and desire for escape... y'know, the same old bollocks. All gloom and doom and depression!" Fans can sample the new album track "Day Like Today" from McRae's official Web site, which will be hosting further song previews as the release date approaches.

-- Paul Sexton, London

Groove ArmadaCutting Crew guitarist Kevin Macmichael died Dec. 31 after battling lung cancer. He was 51. Macmichael formed Cutting Crew in 1985 with English vocalist Nick Van Eede, and the new group quickly scored a No. 1 Billboard Hot 100 with "(I Just) Died in Your Arms," from its 1986 album "Broadcast."

Cutting Crew disbanded in the early '90s, but Macmichael continued his career as a guitarist for Robert Plant, performing on and touring in support of the former Led Zeppelin singer's "Fate of Nations" album. After returning to Canada in 1993, Macmichael worked as a guitarist in former Beatles drummer Pete Best's tribute band as well as a producer. He also produced and wrote for several Atlantic Canadian acts including the Rankin Family. He is survived by his wife and two children.

-- Jason MacNeil, Toronto