The horn lines stab at the unflinching grooves with a staccato suddenness carrying echoes of James Brown and Afro-beat. These set up the tension of an often unfulfilled expectation of solos, like being in a cafe with the left side of the stereo running into one room and the right side into another. This, Stu Hunter’s third suite, differs from its predecessors in that rather than fully exploiting the improvising prowess of his exceptional players amid imaginative compositional ideas the beast is the ensemble itself.
In Phil Slater, James Greening, Matt Keegan and Julien Wilson Hunter has assembled one of the great horn sections in Australian music history, and yet conceptually he largely holds all this power in reserve. The same can be said of his own piano, Carl Dewhurst’s guitar, Cameron Undy’s bass and Simon Barker’s drums. There are mood changes and short, sometimes explosive solos, but Hunter’s primary way to break up the suite has been incorporating three songs sung by Katie Noonan and Tina Harrod. Transcendent brilliance and lesser moments cohabit.