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Sunday, May 21, 2017

Johnny Hunter Quartet @ the Jazz Café - May 19

Mark Hanslip (tenor sax); Graham South (trumpet); Seth Bennett (bass); Johnny Hunter (drums).
(Review/photos courtesy of Ken Drew). 
Friday night at the Caff with a co-promotion by Jazz North East & the Jazz Cafe - what to expect? Playing all original material by master percussionist Johnny Hunter was something to look forward to, particularly following the reviews from last year’s Manchester Jazz Festival.  Although some regular faces were absent the audience numbers were swelled by many new ones – great to see!  
All tunes felt quite accessible through their interesting compositions and delivery by the band. What a tight band (when needed), interspersed with much free playing, yet always collectively in sync. Most tunes had extended solos from 2 or 3 of the band each time, giving the opportunity to freely develop some space around each tune. I was surprised but pleased to see an extended drum solo in the second piece which provided a perfectly formed segue into the third. There were many fine solos yet no immediate applause for them.  Thankfully the applause at the end of each set showed the true measure of the audience's appreciation, bringing smiles of delight to the band.
The second set started off and finished at a brisk pace, and in between there was a good mix of rhythms and musical styles, good solos and even a section of free improv.  Were the audience ready for this? It was quite a contrast from the pieces in the first set.  After quite a while with no breaks or announcements it became clear it was all one piece with cleverly constructed parts which flowed well, taking the attentive audience with them every step of the way. Eventually, the piece concluded with a rapid-fire drum solo then quickly wrapped up by all to a sudden end.  What a surprise this whole piece was, what an exhilarating journey - particularly as it carried the audience along with it throughout. All enjoyed the performance, judging by the audience's quiet concentration during the two sets and from comments picked up on the way out.  Overall, an excellent performance by the quartet, and well received by the Friday night audience. Ken D
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