© 2024 WBGO
Discover Jazz...Anywhere, Anytime, on Any Device.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Huntertones on finding their sound and their community

c/o the artist

Huntertones are a six-piece band known for their high energy, horn driven sound. They’ve been shaking rooms in New York with their genre bending repertoire for over a decade, but it all started as college students in Columbus, Ohio, back when they were just a bunch of school friends having a good time.

Huntertones saxophonist Dan White says the band was originally named by and for himself. “It was the Dan White Sextet, that’s how it started,” he explains. “We were all studying music together at Ohio State. We started playing house shows on Hunter Avenue which is where the name comes from. Playing music for our friends, with our friends.”

While they’ve come a long way from those house shows on Hunter Avenue, that sense of connection and community has remained intact. As Dan White puts it, “Our business is connecting with human beings, both in the band and in the audience.”

Since moving to New York in 2014, the members of Huntertones have connected with a lot of human beings, both individually and as a collective.

Over the years they’ve spent less time on local stages and more time on the road, most recently joining singer Kurt Elling and guitarist Charlie Hunter’s group SuperBlue as the featured horn section. And the band’s trumpeter and sousaphone player, Jon Lampley, can be seen most nights playing in the house band on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

The members of Hunterones came of age consuming a complex musical diet of everything from pop music to classic jazz but it was their experience playing the music of Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers in a college class that oriented their early development.

“We all played in The Art Blakey Combo,” Lampley explains. “As much as I do not love the word combo, I do love the word Art Blakey! Every tune that they played, even if it was a cover, was so well arranged. You had this band right at the height of when the jazz tradition was pop culture, but they were making it interesting and really different.”

The trick for the young musicians was to figure out how to apply those same values to their sound. As Lampley says, “We want to do our version of taking what we’re hearing which spans the map from Zeppelin to John Ellis to Joshua Redman to John Mayer to D’Angelo, and find a way to incorporate that through our lens of music and humanity which is a bunch of dudes coming from small towns in West New York and Ohio.”

The end result is a sound that defies category but that is clearly steeped in the traditions that inspired them. Their latest record Engine, Co., recorded live in a Brooklyn recording studio, captures the live energy and immediacy of their sound.

“What we do is get in a room and make music together,” says Lampley. “And so it was like ‘alright let’s figure out how to do that, no headphones, just set up and play, let us make the priority [being] in a room playing.’ It’s encouraging that that has translated so well live in the room.”

Dan White seconds that emotion. “This is us bearing it all,” he says.

While the music they make is undeniable, their enthusiasm and energy on stage is also infectious.

Huntertones are hitting the road this summer with shows in Europe and Japan and the Huntertones horn section will appear with SuperBlue at the Newport Jazz Festival in August. But you don’t have to leave town to catch them. They’ll play a rare Brooklyn show this weekend.

“Can’t wait!” says Lampley. “There’s nothing like a live Huntertones show so I’m just excited to bring that to the people. Huntertones will bring their energy to the people this Friday at the Sultan Room.

Leo Sidran is a Grammy winning multi-instrumentalist musician, producer, arranger, composer, recording artist and podcast host based in Brooklyn, New York.