Album Reviews

McClenty Hunter Jr.
Groove Hunter Album Review

Label: Strikezone Records, 2018

Personnel - Stacy Dillard: tenor saxophone; Eric Reed: piano; Corcoran Holt: bass; McClenty Hunter: drums + guests Eddie Henderson: trumpet; Donald Harrison: alto saxophone; Dave Stryker: guitar; Christian Sands: piano, Rhodes; Eric Wheeler: bass.

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The drumming qualities of McClenty Hunter could be fully enjoyed throughout the years while performing with Kenny Garrett, Eric Reed, Jim Snidero and Dave Stryker. His faultless rhythmic drives have a special meaning now since he gathered some of the most revered heavyweights on the scene to play with him on The Groove Hunter, his debut full-length album. The guest appearances include emblematic musicians like trumpeter Eddie Henderson, altoist Donald Harrison, and guitarist Dave Stryker, but also emergent talents such as pianist Christian Sands and bassist Eric Wheeler on three tunes each. They expanded the possibilities of a tight core quartet composed of Stacy Dillard on tenor sax, Eric Reed on piano, Corcoran Holt on bass, and McClenty in the drummer’s chair.

The album, pure post-bop thrill, comprises four gentle originals and a selection of five exciting covers. It kicks off with Herbie Nichols’ “Blue Chopsticks”, delivered in a classic piano trio format and exhibiting a push-forward attitude with fascinating rhythmic accents. After demonstrating his energy while trading fours with his bandmates, Hunter eases down his tempting rudiments so that Holt’s bass may speak.

McClenty Hunter hip groove filled jazz McClenty Hunter – The Groove Hunter

By Dick Metcalf, editor, Contemporary Fusion Reviews - April 3, 2018
(http://contemporaryfusionreviews.com/mcclenty-hunter-hip-groove-filled-jazz-mcclenty-hunter-the-groove-hunter/)

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McClenty Hunter hip groove filled jazz McClenty Hunter – THE GROOVE HUNTER:  Fantastic drummer McClenty really doesn’t have to do much “hunting” when it comes to finding the groove… as you listen to his most mellow original, “My Love”, you’ll know (beyond the shadow of a doubt) that you’re hooked into one of the coolest jazz cats on the scene today… just a beautiful piece of music (the samples aren’t up yet, since this is a May 2018 release; I’ll come back & add them in as soon as I’m told they’ve gone hot)… the sax solo on this one is killer, & in fact, each of the players have their own place on this 6:20 marvel… Eddie Henderson – trumpet, Donald Harrison – alto sax, Stacy Dillard – tenor sax, Eric Reed – piano, Christian Sands – piano, fender rhodes, Dave Stryker – guitar, Corcoran Holt – bass, Eric Wheeler -bass.

If it’s upbeat & swingin’ you’re thirsting for, you’re going to be spinning the opener, Herbie Nichols’ “Blue Chopsticks” over & over again… I just loved Eric’s piano on this one; high-energy performance from each of the players on this thoroughly stimulating cooker!

If you want to learn more about this fascinating player, join him on his FB page, where you’ll also get updates on the album drop as it comes near… you’ll also want to be sure you subscribe to his YouTube channel – I did.

When I did my first run-through of the album (I’m on my third listen now), I knew what my personal favorite pick was going to be immediately… McClenty’s performance of Wayne Shorter’s “The Big Push” is the most penetrating version of the tune I’ve heard – ever! 

I give McClenty and all his players a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as a (perfect) “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 5.00 – meaning that his album also gets a “PICK” for “best drummer-led jazz album”.      Rotcod Zzaj

McClenty Hunter Hunts “Grooves”

APRIL 2, 2018
THE ART MUSIC LOUNGE
(https://artmusiclounge.wordpress.com/2018/04/02/mcclenty-hunter-hunts-grooves/)

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THE GROOVE HUNTER / NICHOLS: Blue Chopsticks. SHORTER: The Big Push.# HUNTER: Autumn. My Love. I Remember When.* Give Thanks. WONDER: That Girl.* McFARLAND: Sack Full of Dreams.* COLTRANE: Countdown# / McClenty Hunter, dm; Eddie Henderson, tpt; #Donald Harrison, a-sax; Stacy Dillard, t-sax/s-sax; Eric Reed, pn; *Christian Sands, pn/Fender Rhodes; Dave Stryker, gtr; Corcoran Holt, *Eric Wheeler, bs / Strikezone 8816

Drummer McClenty Hunter began his career playing gospel music, but moved on to Howard University where he studied with well-known drummer Grady Tate and earned his masters at Juilliard under Carl Allen. He played in Kenny Garrett’s famous quintet for three years while also playing with Lou Donaldson, Curtis Fuller, Eric Reed and Javon Jackson among others. This album, due for release May 4, is his debut recording as a leader.

I immediately gave him, and the band, two thumbs up for starting out this disc with a Herbie Nichols tune, Blue Chopsticks. They kind of smooth out Nichols’ quirky sense of rhythm but retain the unusual harmonic feel and pulse, turning it into a nice swinger. Pianist Eric Reed naturally dominates this track, with Hunter playing some nice drums behind him in a sort of Art Blakey groove. Bassist Corcoran Holt plays a creative if understated solo, then it’s back to Reed for another go at Nichols’ quirky tune.

On Wayne Shorter’s The Big Push we hear the two saxists and trumpet playing the opening tune in unison, out of rhythm, before Harrison’s alto is heard in a meaty solo with a tone and style reminiscent of John Coltrane. And wow, does he have good ideas! Henderson follows with a nice bop trumpet solo, rich in tone and sounding like a cross between Dizzy and Freddie Hubbard. Hunter propels them well, relaxing his volume a bit when Reed enters. This is a tight, well-disciplined group, and they feed each other beautifully; when Harrison returns, he takes off on some of Reed’s ideas and expands them.

We then hear the first of Hunter’s three originals, Autumn, a really lovely ballad featuring altoist Donald Harrison’s lovely tone in the opening melody. The delicate piano solo breaks up the strict rhythm, followed in turn by a really nice Harrison solo. I was particularly impressed by the way the band played Stevie Wonder’s That Girl, transforming this pop tune into nice, bluesy swinger, featuring guest guitarist Dave Stryker. Christian Sands is the pianist on this one, and he’s outstanding as well, contributing a nice meaty solo, but this one is a Stryker showcase.

Hunter’s My Love follows, a surprisingly gentle waltz with the pianist and bassist opening it up. Reed continues into his solo with lovely flourishes, eventually building the tension before the pulse changes for Dillard’s exciting and imaginative tenor solo. Hunter drives him especially well here and he builds a frantic chorus full of double-time flourishes, followed in turn by Reed doing the same before a return to waltz tempo for the quiet ending.

Gary McFarland’s Sack Full of Dreams is a ballad, again featuring Stryker on guitar, Sands on piano and Eric Wheeler on bass. The gentle mood is sustained throughout. The next Hunter piece, I Remember When, also includes Wheeler and Sands but not Stryker. This, too, is a ballad, opened by the pianist, whose playing dominates the solo space. Wheeler’s bass solo is also very tasteful, and Sands ramps up the excitement a bit in his ensuing solo before returning calmness. Harrison returns in full force on John Coltrane’s Countdown, which opens with a nice drum solo from the leader. This is essentially a duet between these two until Reed comes in for some comping behind him, and eventually Holt enters the fray to push him a bit more. This is surely one of the highlights of this album.

We close with another Hunter ballad, Give Thanks, opened by the leader a cappella before Dillard’s warm-toned tenor plays the melody. Holt follows with a nice bass chorus, after which Dillard comes back for a particularly inventive solo, pushing his tenor up into the alto range. Reed then takes over on piano, playing double time yet retaining the quiet mood.

This is an excellent album overall, and one well worth your checking out.

—© 2018 Lynn René Bayley