Blue Note Records
Last year's reggae-jazz mini-trend produced some good stuff and some not-so-good-stuff. The Charlie Hunter Quartet's late entry, Natty Dread (Blue Note, 7243-8-52420-2 1 V, 43:03) re-imagines the classic Bob Marley album as a soul-jazz release, with smoking results. Hunter is one of the most consistent of the younger soul-jazzers, and he delivers again here, from the second line-ish bob of the title track to the smoky swing of "Talkin' Blues." The band goes for the knockout on the disc-opening "Lively Up Yourself" with Hunters familiar underwater chord comping underpinning the a down-and-dirty I-IV shuffle. And the curveballs are just as good, as when the guitarist hints toward Nashville on "No Woman No Cry". Hunter also takes advantage of the two-sax format he introduced on last year's "Ready Set Shango," affording plenty of space for tenor player Kenny Brooks (replacing the departed Dave Ellis) and altoist Calder Spanier, especially on the too-short "Bend Down Low."