The Oberlin Review
<< Front page Arts October 14, 2005

Trombone alumnus goes international
Eclectic trombonist finds international success
Andy Hunter: Oberlin alumnus to perform his well-known trombone with quartet at the Cat in the Cream tonight at 8 p.m.

Mention Andy Hunter’s name among jazz players at Oberlin, and some ears are bound to perk up. Trombonist Hunter, who graduated from Oberlin as a double degree student in 2002, studied jazz trombone with Associate Professor of Trombone Robin Eubanks, and developed a reputation on campus for his highly developed slide technique and tight, valve-like articulations.

Over the past few years, Hunter has continued to attract attention with his music. After leaving the Oberlin bubble, Hunter resided in Cleveland for a period of time, playing with his group, Up Ensemble, and became a force on the Cleveland jazz scene. It was not long before he made the move to New York City.

“I’d been going to New York since I was 16, to play and everything,” Hunter said. “So I already knew some people.” After a period of acclimation, Hunter said he began gigging steadily on the New York scene.

Around the same time, Hunter began to make use of his college major in East Asian Studies, taking intermittent trips to China, often visiting for months at a time. As he explained in a recent interview on Cleveland’s WCPN (90.3 FM), with the rise of capitalism in China, there has been a growing demand for symbols of affluence such as fine wine, modern art — and good jazz. Of the reception of jazz in China, he said: “[It’s popular] among certain segments of the population. It’s not like Japan, where you have afficionados. People are interested and they are curious. To them it’s exotic. [They’re saying,] I don’t know if I like it, but it’s kind of interesting.”

These days Hunter divides time between residences in Brooklyn and Shanghai. He plays regularly in New York with the Harlem Renaissance Orchestra, several salsa bands, as well as his own quartet. This May, Hunter hopes to earn a master’s degree from Rutgers University, where he is studying with the renowned trombonist Conrad Herwig. Last summer, the Andy Hunter Quartet recorded a new CD titled The Slow Road to Shanghai, which was released this past August in China. Hunter does not plan to release the disc in the United States, but it will be for sale at his concerts. This month, he is taking a brief tour of the American Midwest in support of the new CD. The Andy Hunter Quartet plays in Oberlin tonight at 8 p.m. at the Cat in the Cream.

Tonight’s set will feature a huge variety of diverse musical influences, presenting what Hunter calls “whirled” music, which, one can assume, is like world music, shaken, not stirred. The idea is to “draw music from all the different traditions you hear in an urban setting on the radio dial,” Hunter told WCPN. This means everything from Brazilian music to Soundgarden to Radiohead to Chinese pop music to old jazz, along with originals by Hunter and other band members.

Hunter brings together some truly wonderful musicians to support him at the Cat tonight. The group will include Conservatory senior Kevin McHugh on piano (who, incidentally, just returned from a year studying and performing jazz in Berlin, Germany); Australian freelancer Danny Fischer on drums (who, incidentally, is the only person Andy would hire to play drums just because he is Australian) and Conservatory first-year Chris Mees on bass (who, incidentally, has really cool tattoos).

Of being Hunter’s sideman, Fischer says, “It makes perfect sense — the direction of the sound that Andy wants. It’s almost kind of selfless, but that’s one of the aspects of being a sideman.” Fischer, a native of Melbourne, Australia who is currently working in New York City, also plays in a Tom Waits band six nights a week in the city. “Alternative music has a simplicity that is sometimes lost in jazz music. It’s a situation where less is definitely a lot more. It’s about the feel and the sound and close attention to dynamics,” he said.

Tonight’s show will traverse boundaries of culture and genre, giving this talented group of players the space to explore new musical territory in their performance.


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