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McClenty Hunter Jr.: The Groove Hunter (Strikezone)

Review of the drummer's debut as a leader

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Cover of McClenty Hunter Jr. album The Groove Hunter
Cover of McClenty Hunter Jr. album The Groove Hunter

Gospel roots infuse modern jazz as often as the more celebrated route of classical training, and drummer McClenty Hunter Jr. displays a sacred understatement on his debut as a leader, The Groove Hunter. The nine-song disc features four Hunter originals, creative cover interpretations, and an ace core band with special guests, all showcasing the drummer’s Baltimore church upbringing, training with percussive educational icons Grady Tate and Carl Allen, and influences from Elvin Jones to Max Roach to Roy Haynes.

Hunter isn’t flashy often here, but shows his fire early on a burning opening reading of Herbie Nichols’ “Blue Chopsticks,” trading fours with pianist Eric Reed that mimic his melodic lines. Wayne Shorter’s subsequent “The Big Push” downshifts, featuring the added horn section of alto saxophonist Donald Harrison, tenorist Stacy Dillard, and trumpeter Eddie Henderson, and setting up listeners for Hunter’s often pensive original material.

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