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John Shand SMH, 2007

Some music transcends style. This is different from merely combining disparate styles,
and results from extraordinary purity and focus in the process of creation. It is almost
as though the ideas have come from a vacuum, rather than being a distillation.
Pianist Stu Hunter has never made a CD under his own name before, but chances are you've
heard him. He has appeared on more than 60 CDs, and with his piano-for-hire hat on has
performed with such big-name artists as Portishead, silverchair, the John Butler Trio,
Jackie Orszaczky and Russell Crowe.
The music on this CD is some of the most strikingly original, in conception and
execution, that I have encountered, and not just within Australian jazz circles. It is
also numbingly beautiful - often gracefully so and sometimes majestically, as when Matt
Keegan's tenor saxophone floods part three of this six-part, 50-minute suite (augmented
by a haunting prelude and dramatic little interlude).
Like any rose worth the name, it also has thorns: both sonic surprises to re-boot a mind
in danger of being lulled into reverie, and also moments of sharp anguish that almost
hurt physically as well as emotionally.
Beside Keegan, Hunter's colleagues are bassist Cameron Undy and drummer Simon Barker, and
all are capable of sidestepping idiom in realising the composer's vision for the
rhythmically varied but brilliantly cohesive suite.
Barker is given free rein to gatecrash even some of the most delicate moments with
unsettling punctuations, on occasion in tandem with the singularly arresting sound Keegan
makes on his tenor.
In setting up this conflict between edginess and beauty, Hunter creates a dynamic that
both sustains the elongated compositional form and infuses the improvising with very
broad options. He employs a gradually mounting trajectory so that, by the time we arrive
at part five, the music reaches a conflagration of surging rhythm, hair-raising piano and
teeming saxophone. But from the very first notes only one resolution was ever possible
for a work that is so tightly and intricately structured and that was a return to
Hunter's elegant piano, joined in peaceful meditation by his exceptional colleagues.
The recording quality crackles with vitality. With its combination of wistfulness and
agitation as rain falls outside a window, Brett Whiteley's 1973 drawing Sunday makes for
perfect cover art.
On Monday night the same four players will launch this astonishing album of
style-transcendant music at the Basement.