I'm a long time RatDog fan, and with the first tour in years coming on fast, albeit with
an in some ways crucially different lineup, I thought it would be worthwhile to go back to
the roots of some of the band members in an effort to understand just how truly jazzy that
laid back, jazzy RatDog groove really is.
While most people know of drummer Jay Lane's long standing relationship with Les Claypool,
fewer may know that in the early nineties Jay was part of the Charlie Hunter Trio,
with tenor sax player Dave Ellis. Hunter's music certainly had a groove in it even back
then, but it rested pretty firmly in the jazz arena, not staying much toward some of the
crazier freeform music that would follow a decade later, or toward what one normally
thinks of as turn of the century groove: Galactic, Soulive and Greyboy Allstars. Jay was a
founding member of Ratdog in 1995 when Weir and Wasserman began to expand on their Scaring
the Children acoustic duo. Dave would then join in 1997, becoming the lead instrument for
the band, and he brought along the pianist from his own band, Jeff Chimenti, who has gone
on to be one of the true stalwarts of the extended GD family and one of the talented rock
and roll keyboardists on the scene. (Dave's Long Distance Runner is one of my
favorite jazz albums, by the way.) When Dave left the band, he was replaced by Kenny
Brooks, who also played with Charlie Hunter in the mid nineties and was part of the
Natty Dread recordings. Kenny's arrival would solidify the group's lineup, allowing
them to develop into an incredibly talented and tight unit.
Despite having never sat in with the band, Hunter's influence on Ratdog cannot be
overstated; when someone says the band sounds jazzy, it's no cliche.
As such, this week we have three tracks from the Charlie Hunter Trio ("Aunt Jemima's
Revenge," "Funky Niblets" and "Telephones a-Ringing") and an expansive take on
Gobbler" from the Charlie Hunter Quartet. As always, enjoy!
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Written By: Dan Alford