As a touring musician and longtime pianist/keyboardist for Dionne Warwick, Todd Hunter has lived a life most musicians would be envious of. He has gotten to travel the world, playing every continent but Antarctica, and sampled the food, drink and culture of numerous locales. For his latest release, Hunter wanted to create an album that was sort of a travel log of some of the places he had been in the tradition of the great storytellers among jazz pianists. The resulting album Eat, Drink, Play takes the listener on a musical journey, one that makes it easy to imagine these exotic locales.
The album leads off with "Big Bird," a song inspired by a man Hunter met who reminded him of the fictional character. The song features sharp drums and a piano track that is reminiscent of Vince Guaraldi without being derivative. A blues and gospel feel makes its way into Hunter's excellent solo on this standout number. "Man On Deck" uses the baseball term to symbolize the waiting games we play in life. It starts as a slow saloon song, before the band kicks in, turning it into a breezy waltz. Hunter's note choices are excellent and he always seems to know what to play and what not to play.
"Samba de Todje" shows off some killer drumming from Aaron Serfaty. Inspired by Hunter's many trips to Brazil, it is a lively track with intricate playing by all. "Snake In The Bottle" is about a trip to Mexico where Hunter sampled some very different tequila, one with a rattlesnake in the bottle instead of a worm. It is a very playful track, which is unsurprising given its origins.
On "I See More Than One," bassist Dave Robaire offers a fantastic counterpoint to Hunter's gentle melody. The musicians here are all top notch and are able to coax great performances out of one another. The album closes with "210 To 15," a song about being stuck in traffic in Los Angeles. An up-tempo number, it is perhaps inspired by Hunter's lack of speed on the road. The song features Hunter on Fender Rhodes electric piano, giving a lush feel to the song.
With Eat Drink, Play, Hunter set out to tell stories with his songs and succeeded. The songs may be instrumental, but the listener is instantly transported to any number of exotic locales by the music alone. Eat, Drink, Play is a fine listening experience.