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McClenty Hunter Jr.: The Groove Hunter

Dan Bilawsky By

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Drummer McClenty Hunter Jr. has left an indelible mark on the scene in the years since his move from the Washington D.C. area to the New York proving grounds. Whether taking to the studio with Jim Snidero, tearing it up on stage with icons like Curtis Fuller and Lou Donaldson, or holding down the fort during his lengthy stays in the respective bands of Kenny Garrett and Dave Stryker, Hunter has continually shown his true musical mettle and risen to every challenge and situation he's faced. Now, he takes on the ultimate responsibility—the mantle of leadership—on this, his debut.

The Groove Hunter is both a gathering of friends, a display of diversity, and a marshaling of forces. Hunter brings together a collection of colleagues to cover a wide spectrum of material that leaves no doubt as to the veracity of his position within the jazz community and his groove-hunting habits. He quickly shifts from dirty hi-hat slams to swing on Herbie Nichols' "Blue Chopsticks," serving as the engine of a trio train engineered by pianist Eric Reed. Then he ably backs a horn happening on "The Big Push," takes a back seat to beauty while Stacy Dillard's tenor takes center stage during "Autumn," shuffles his way into a barroom vibe on a Stryker-enhanced take of Stevie Wonder's "That Girl," and ushers the listener from the quietude of Reed's eighty-eights to a John Coltrane-ish realm on "My Love." In each and every instance Hunter holds down the fort and gives the song just what it needs.

The second half of the album, giving Hunter the opportunity to further diversify his portfolio and showcase the heavy company he keeps, is no less pleasing. Stryker returns for an understated "Sack Full Of Dreams" with a low-key soul feel, Hunter joins with pianist Christian Sands and bassist Eric Wheeler for his own nostalgic-turned-triumphant "I Remember When," and muscle and tussle define the day when Donald Harrison's alto leads the charge on Coltrane's "Countdown." Then the tonal beauty of toms underscores reflection and praise on the album-closing "Give Thanks."

In fleshing out this vision, Hunter delivers a work of strength without ego, passion without piousness, and art without artifice. It's music that's straight from—and to—the heart. The Groove Hunter's aim is right and true.

Track Listing: Blue Chopsticks; The Big Push; Autumn; That Girl; My Love; Sack Full Of Dreams; I Remember When; Countdown; Give Thanks.

Personnel: McClenty Hunter Jr.: drums; Eddie Henderson: trumpet (2); Donald Harrison: alto saxophone (2, 8); Stacy Dillard: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone (2, 3, 5); Eric Reed: piano (1-3, 5, 8-9); Christian Sands: piano, Fender Rhodes (4, 6-7); Dave Stryker: guitar (4, 6); Corcoran Holt: bass (1-3, 5, 8-9); Eric Wheeler: bass (4, 6-7).

Title: The Groove Hunter | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Strikezone Records

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