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Tea Break - October 2016

Johnny Hunter

Johnny Hunter



While We Still Can album

I first met and heard drummer Johnny Hunter at the Vortex Club in London and was immediately impressed by his playing. Since then, Johnny has become increasingly recognised as one of the UK's leading drummers. In our review of his latest album While We Still Can, Steve Day writes: 'There are some great new drummers based in the UK who are currently out (and on) the traps and scoring highly in my little notebook; Johnny Hunter is among the frontrunners ... I am coming to regard Johnny Hunter as serious crème de la crème and it is not just about his playing, though he is a hell of a technician. His whole approach to the role of the drummer is a dynamic one, he arranges any band he is in through his drum kit.'

The ongoing talk about a 'Northern Powerhouse' could equally refer to the jazz scene. Johnny Hunter is a Manchester-based drummer who comes from a background of both the Avant-Garde and more mainstream Jazz.  He has performed or recorded with such esteemed musicians as Benn Clatworthy, Nat Birchall, Jamil Sheriff, Corey Mwamba, Steve Beresford, Adam Fairhall and Steve Berry to name a few.  He is also heavily involved in the Reggae and Dub scene. His brother Anton Hunter is highly regarded as a jazz guitarist.

Johnny also runs the Jazz jam night at Matt and Phred’s Club in Manchester; teaches drums and improvisation, and works as an arranger, orchestrating and arranging music for others. He also leads a big band playing entirely his own Ska and Jazz arrangements.

I interrupted his busy schedule to take time for a tea break.


Hi Johnny, tea or coffee?


Milk and sugar?


If you could ask two past jazz musicians to join us for the tea break, who would you invite?

Tough question.  I think I'd ask Sun Ra and Joe Harriott.

What would you ask them?

I'd ask them what their favourite biscuit was; Hob Nob, Bourbon, Garibaldi or Digestive.

Hob Nob, Bourbon, Garibaldi or digestive biscuit?

Better not...


How are things going with the Quartet album While We Still Can?

Really well, thanks!  People seem to be enjoying it, which is reassuring!  The next album is ready to record now, too, which is exciting.


That sounds good, can you tell me something about it?

I don't want to say too much about it yet, but I can tell you that it is furthering my work with larger structures within music.  We premiered a couple of pieces at the Kings Place in June so some of your readers may have been unfortunate enough to have already experienced some of it ...


Here's a video of the Johnny Hunter Quartet playing Ayça.





Johnny Hunter Quartet

What gigs have you played recently?

The last few months have been amazing.  I played at the Manchester Jazz Festival with my quartet, and as part of Ben Cottrell's 'MJF Originals' commission, New Seeing; Brighton Alternative Jazz Festival with Cath Roberts's Sloth Racket, which is an incredible festival for new and improvised music; and Lancaster Jazz Festival with my quartet, and Cath's large ensemble (which is made up of really fantastic players).



Here is a video of Anton Hunter's Article XI with Johnny and Anton Hunter and Cath Roberts on baritone sax in 2014
playing at The Vortex Jazz Club.



What have you got coming up in the next few months?

I'll be touring with Sloth Racket from 28 Sept, which will be a lot of fun. I'm really looking forward to supporting Ellery Eskelin on Thursday 13th October at Fusebox, Leeds, with my piano trio with Adam Fairhall and Seth Bennett, Fragments.  We've been doing a lot of work with this group behind closed doors so it'll be nice to put it in front of an audience. Also, my quartet are on Jazz North's Northern Line scheme, which will see us performing more regularly and further afield over the next year, including a performance at the Vortex on Monday 31st October.


Listen to Fragments.



Who else have you heard recently that we should listen out for?

I've just seen Anna Högberg's Attack at BAJF.  They were great!  Anna Lund on drums was fierce!  Also; Sam Andreae is always doing interesting stuff; Shatner's Bassoon; Metamorphic; and Seth Bennett's En Bas Quartet, which is a low string quartet (two violas, 'cello and double bass) with the incredible improvisers Aby Vulliamy (viola) and Alice Eldridge (cello).


Anna Högberg's Attack! playing in Austria in 2015




Another biscuit?

Well, okay then, I'll have a bourbon.


Click here for Johnny Hunter's website.

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