The Groove Hunter
Familiar to this writer as a member of Dave Stryker's organ trio, drummer McClenty Hunter Jr. studied at Howard University with Grady Tate and Juilliard with Carl Allen. He was a member of Kenny Garrett's Quintet and has played with Lou Donaldson, Eric Reed, Curtis Fuller, Javon Jackson and others in addition to Stryker.I believe "The Groove Hunter" is his first recording as a leader. Produced by Stryker and Hunter, there are some serious players to be heard here including pianists Eric Reed and Christian Sands; bassists Corcoran Holt and Eric Wheeler; guitarist Stryker; trumpeter Eddie Henderson; alto saxophonist Donald Harrison; and tenor saxophonist Stacy Dillard. They collaborate in various combinations on the four Hunter compositions and five interpretations heard here.
There is plenty of fire with Eric Reed dazzling on piano for a driving, fiery trip take of Herbie Nichols' "Blue Chopsticks," with Holt anchoring the performance with Hunter pushing the heated groove. In contrast, Reed is exquisite on Hunter's, "My Love," shifting from a lovely ballad mode to comping behind Dillard's robust, burning tenor sax and then soloing in a Tyner-esque fashion. Wayne Shorter's "The Big Push" has all three of the horns along with Reed and Holt. Dillard's robust tenor sax is impressive while Dr. Henderson delights with his attack. There are also strong statements from Reed and Harrison who plays in a turbulent manner. Stryker is featured on the rendition of Stevie Wonder's "That Girl," with Sands also outstanding on this bouncy performance. Gary McFarland's "Sack Full of Dreams" is a feature for some lovely, delicate playing from pianist Sands and guitarist Stryker, with Hunter employing a light touch. Hunter's drums kick off a brisk version of John Coltrane's "Countdown," with Harrison riveting alto sax with a good portion of the performance being a duet with Hunter before Reed and Holt join in.
Dillard's soprano sax is supported by Reed, Holt and Hunter on the leader's composition, "Give Thanks," on a lovely spiritually rooted performance. It is the close of a fascinating and enthralling recording by Hunter, who shows himself to be a composer of note as well as a marvelous musician who is joined by a superb cast of supporting musicians.
I received my review copy from a publicist. This review originally appeared in the May-June 2018 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 378). Here is McClenty Hunter Jr as part of Dave Stryker's band.