Few musicians in the 90s have managed to personalize 70s funk as adeptly as guitarist Charlie Hunter–he digs a deep groove but lines it with silk. To do so he puts on a bit of a freak show, simultaneously playing bass lines and guitar solos on an eight-string guitar and sending the low end out over a separate speaker. More than just a parlor trick, this technique lets Hunter link his lines in the manner of the great jazz organists (who supply their own bass parts using the instrument’s foot pedals); in fact, some of Hunter’s guitar effects re-create colors more commonly coaxed from the Hammond B-3. Ironically Hunter’s legerdemain slides into the backseat on his terrific new disc, Return of the Candyman (Blue Note). As on his previous three albums, there’s no full-time bassist; but who’ll notice when confronted with the splendiferous mallet work of new vibraphone star Stefon Harris? Candyman takes the mix of vibes and guitar, which for years has remained the purview of Gary Burton, and reinvests it with the organ-jazz soulfulness last used to similar effect by Roy Ayers in the 70s. But to locate the source of the album’s most prominent groove, you need to head across the aisle–to the blue-eyed funk of Steve Miller. His hit “Fly Like an Eagle” appears on Candyman, and half the other tunes sound like they’re leading into or out of it. Hunter’s touring trio does not include Harris; instead we get Monte Croft, Harris’s predecessor in the role of hot new mallet man. Croft, despite never really making it onto jazz listeners’ radar, is the real thing: his own albums for Columbia in the 80s revealed a razor-sharp musical intellect, and I can’t wait to hear him in this context. Wednesday, 9 PM, House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn; 312-527-2583 or 312-923-2000. NEIL TESSER

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Andrew MacNaughton.