The spunky, aggressively engaging band formally known as The Dan White Sextet made its debut as the Huntertones covering a movie soundtrack tune, a charged-up version that gave a song conceived for lush string arrangements a swift kick in the pants. So imagine what the Huntertones do with their own material.
Well, now we know. On November 20, 2015 their fuller debut — a self-titled EP — comes out. The kinetic horns of Dan White (saxes), Jon Lampley (trumpet, sousaphone) and Chris Ott (trombone) carry over their intricate, highly originative arrangements from the DWS, overlaid on a potent, contemporary rhythm section comprised of Adam DeAscentis on electric bass, John Hubbell on drums, Joshua Hill on guitar and Theron Brown handling the keys.
The nucleus of White/Lampley/Ott take turns composing the tunes, with Ott responsible for the lion’s share. You’ll start tapping your toes from the opening notes of “Rumpus Time,” where there’s a tough groove mated to punchy horn lines and strung together by several distinct motifs. The songwriting goes well beyond simple riffs; it’s like Spyro Gyra on steroids.
Hints of hip-hop pop up on “Welcome To The Neighborhood,” built on a slow shuffle and the horns layer in interesting ways, pairing up and peeling away with Brown and Hill. Ott’s saucy trombone solo is a real standout, digging deep in the pocket. “Delirious” is built upon DeAscentis’s taut bass line, and its composer Lampley renders a sparkling trumpet solo. Enriched with deep horn harmonies, the performance reaches its highest energy at the end.
None of those songs quite prepare you for “Hip Mr. Hampton,” played solely by the core three. Ott’s human beat box sounds effectively replaces the drums and Lampley’s sousaphone undertakes bass duties while White’s tenor sax provides the melodic companion to that sousaphone. The closest the Huntertones get to straight jazz is “Song For Arthur,” but even here they maintain a very modern sensibility with jazzy guitar lines from Hill that quickly turn acerbic as the band briefly shifts into jazz-rock territory without breaking stride on melody. The the middle of this multi-section piece, a softer mood prevails with an affecting soprano sax solo from White, and the song moves comfortably toward a soaring closing chorus.
So, the name has changed but the product is basically the same. They didn’t mess with a good thing, so there’s a lot to recommend about Huntertones. It’s fresh, it’s funky and it’s distinctive.
As good as this sounds on record, it’s even better live. Here’s where the Huntertones will be playing soon.
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