“I’m lucky,” says Todd. “As a touring musician I get to see and
experience a whole lot.”
That’s the inspiration for his latest album, Eat, Drink, Play (July 1
release, Dexterity Records ).
As pianist/keyboardist for the legendary vocalist Dionne Warwick ,
Todd has traveled to every continent (except Antarctica), sampling
the local food and drink and performing along the way.
“Typically we don’t have much time in any given place, so I’ve
learned to appreciate the good stuff when it happens. That’s what I
wanted to share as I started composing the music for this album.”
Todd’s great love for the classic piano trio is an important element of
this project. “I grew up listening to recordings by Bill Evans, Ahmad
Jamal, Oscar Peterson… all great storytellers! For Eat, Drink, Play , I
wanted to continue that tradition, telling my own stories in the way I
hear and feel them.”
The first cut, “Big Bird,” is a song inspired by someone Todd met
during his travels who reminded him of the irresistible character from
the children’s show Sesame Street . It starts with a march-like rhythm
and quickly evolves into a soaring three-over-four melody that pays
homage to the music of Vince Guaraldi. As the song develops into
solos, listeners can hear a bit of Todd’s gospel education at the City
of Angels Church, where he played alongside such great talents as
Billy Preston and Les McCann.
Next comes “Man On Deck,” a pensive self-examination of the
waiting game we all have to play at different times in our lives. Todd
plays the first part of the song by himself, then brings in the band to
stretch out and explore a lively and hopeful jazz waltz.
“Samba de Todje” reflects Todd’s frequent visits to Brazil, a country
he embraces like a second home. From the very beginning there’s
the feel of a drum school as percussionist Aaron Serfaty breathes
life into the samba party.
“I See More Than One” is a 5/4 tune reminiscent of the Dave
Brubeck classic, “Take Five.” Bassist Dave Robaire plays a hypnotic
ostinato pattern underneath the weaving melody. The title is a
comment on people who seem to lack awareness of those around
Awareness – mundane and cosmic – inspired other tracks on the
recording. During visits to coastal Mexico, Todd often found himself
in a bar owned by a man named Dimitri. For his friends, he reserved
a special tequila – a five-gallon bottle in which a rattlesnake instead of
the traditional worm lay coiled at the bottom.
That rattler appeared to have died with a smile on its face, and the
smooth liquor went down like water. Todd says it transported him to
the steps of a Mayan temple right next to a sacrificial altar, on a cliff
over the ocean, looking up at the stars. Without a hangover. The
resulting tune? “Snake in the Bottle.”
A tribute to Todd’s late father, Bill – a great talent in dentistry and jazz
piano – plays out in “Moments I Remember.” Todd derived his early
jazz education in large part from listening to and participating in Bill’s
frequent home jam sessions and rehearsals.
“Lucky Number 7” keeps the ear slightly off balance with its 7/8
meter, but the infectious rhythmic pattern ushers listeners right back
into the story. The members of the trio, as if in conversation, explore
the boundaries of the song. Drummer Steve Hass takes the lead
with his multifaceted solo.
“How Beautiful” is the English translation of the song title, “Que
Linda.” Todd wrote the tune for his wife Linda to mark their
partnership of 26 years and counting.
The next track, “Paper Dragons,” evokes for Todd equal measures of
futility and hope. He likes to say: “Be prepared to get what you ask
for. The outcome might not be what you expected.” – such as the first
time a paper dragon breathes fire.
“210 to the 15” – Anyone who has driven east on the 210 freeway
from Los Angeles during rush hour knows it won’t go fast. Sitting in
traffic allows for plenty of time to do just about anything. Although his
car barely moved, his mental frustration had shifted into high gear
when Todd wrote this song. “Don’t worry,” he says. “I did it handsfree.”
The song features Todd on his vintage Fender Rhodes electric piano
along with Rufus Philpot on electric bass and Steve Hass driving
the beat on drums.
Prepare yourself for a great musical journey as the stories unfold on
Todd Hunter’s latest CD, Eat Drink, Play .