Life's a Blast
Trumpet prodigy blows them away
By Paula Harris
ON A HUSHED Fairfield stage the Solano Symphony Orchestra is poised to perform Haydn's Trumpet Concerto in E-flat major. The audience draws a quiet, collective breath as a young kid marches in from the wings dressed in a miniature black tuxedo and swinging a gleaming trumpet in his small hand.
Meet Oliver Hunt. At 13 years old, this Petaluma Junior High School eighth-grader is being touted by some as a young trumpeter in the vein of jazz legend Miles Davis.
On this evening last December, Hunt switches from jazz to classical, trills and all, for the Haydn composition. But a cool jazzy style still colors the performance of the 4-foot-11-inch trumpet player--who stands as tall as the seated adult musicians--as he keeps the rhythm by tapping his size-4 foot.
The talented Hunt has been playing for only five years, but he's already sounding as polished as many musicians who've spent a frustrating lifetime attempting to perfect their art.
On Feb. 10, Hunt brings his talent to the Luther Burbank Center to perform with his quartet in a benefit concert that also features classical pianist Arro Beaulieu.
Debuting this month is Cedra, a new compact disc recording by the Oliver Hunt Quartet (which also features Hunt's father, Robb, on piano). The recording includes classics such as "All the Things You Are" and "It Never Entered My Mind."
In person, the young trumpet player comes across as diligent and mature, despite his tender years. In fact, it's hard not to believe you're not chatting with a small-boned 50 year-old as you look into Hunt's earnest face. "I guess to some extent I'm unusual," he admits seriously. "I certainly differ from the other children."
That's for sure. His bedroom contains a collection of stuffed animals and comic books, but it also sports an array of jazz and classical music on the shelves. A number of different horns, including a fluegelhorn, a trumpet, and two cornets, are all carefully laid out on a rack for easy access for whenever Hunt wants to practice.
The question is more when doesn't he want to drill.
"I usually try to get in four solid hours each day," he explains. As soon as Hunt wakes up in the morning, he puts in a good hour and 15 minutes, then practices for another hour after he gets home from school. After getting through his homework, Hunt puts in yet another hour or so on the horn.
"All the practice really adds up," he says, adding that juggling schoolwork, his other hobby of Olympic-style diving, and music can be tough. "You think about the music all day and the complication of it--but usually I can manage," he says.
Hunt took up the trumpet at age 8 after endlessly watching a Miles Davis video with his father. "When it came time to join the school orchestra I decided to play a brass instrument because I always liked the sound," he explains.
Miles Davis hasn't been the only musical influence on Hunt, who idolizes old-time jazz giants the way most kids his age sing the praises of Britney or the Back Street Boys.
"I also like Chet Baker," Hunt says. "[Baker's] sound and the fluidity in his playing are teaching generations of players. And Clifford Brown also inspired me because his phrasing influenced all of bebop."
Hunt, who describes himself as "a well-built individual with big hair" who doesn't yet have a girlfriend, says his plans for the future involve--what else?--more music.
"I plan to become a trumpet virtuoso and make a living out of that, probably, " he says. "Overall, no matter what I do I'd like to be a great trumpet player."
Random notes: This May 11 marks the 20th anniversary of reggae superstar Bob Marley's death, and Bay Area celebrants once again will commemorate his life with a pair of memorial concerts during Black History Month. On Friday, Feb. 9, Groundation, a 13-piece band, will present a tribute to Marley, performing songs from the late singer/songwriter's rich repertoire. The show at the Mystic Theater in Petaluma begins at 9:30 p.m. That same night, across town at the Phoenix Theatre, the Northern California reggae band Strictly Roots will perform its own songs at a Bob Marley birthday bash (actually, Marley was born on April 5). That show kicks off at 8 p.m. Meanwhile, the Maritime Hall in San Francisco will offer a three-night Bob Marley Days 2001 concert series beginning Feb. 23 with Capleton (a.k.a. Jamaican dancehall star Clifton Bailey). The reggae nights continue Feb. 24 when Toots & the Maytals preach their soulful Jamaican gospel (always one of the highlights on the reggae calendar) and Marley's son Ky-Mani Marley closes out the run on Feb. 25.
The Classic Jazz Benefit and Auction takes place Saturday, Feb. 10, at 6 p.m. at the Luther Burbank Center, 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa. Proceeds go to Willow Wood Waldorf School. Tickets are $30. 707/829-1330.
From the February 8-14, 2001 issue of the Northern California Bohemian.