The Free-Reed Review
Critiques of Compact Discs, Books and Music Scores

CD Review: Richard Hunter
The Act of Being Free in One Act

CD Image

total time: 39:03
released: 1995

label: Turtle Hill Productions
PO Box 651
Monroe, CT 06468-0651
Telephone: (203) 459-9939

Richard Hunter, harmonica


  • Hunter: Peppermint Life
  • Reed/Monk: Bright Lights, Big City/Let it Roll/Blue Monk
  • Hunter: The Longing
  • R.Bissex: Never Go Back
  • Ellington: In a Sentimental Mood
  • Hunter: Big 17
  • Hunter: Winter Sun at Nobska
  • Traditional: When Johnny Comes Marching Home
  • Hunter: Hymn for Crow
  • Ben Tucker: Comin Home Baby
  • Kern/Hammerstein: Old Man River
  • Little Walter: Too Late
  • Hunter: Rock Heart
  • Hunter: Golden Mel

Review by Robert Karl Berta:

I always look forward to a recording of harmonica music. While my own primary instruments include organ, keyboard, accordion and MIDI accordion, I also enjoy playing harmonica occasionally. In the hands of a true virtuoso the harmonica is capable of incredible things. But sadly it is also capable of boring, poorly performed music in the hands of an incompetent. Luckily for us Mr. Hunter comes through with not only fine playing but also proves himself to be a fine composer and arranger in the selections included here.

The recorded sound of the CD is excellent. The only criticism I have is that at only 40 minutes in length, the recording is a little short. How about filling out more of the CD next time, Richard? The CD liner notes come through with fine graphics, accurate and complete information and are tastefully done. The only thing missing from the liner notes is a more extensive bio of the performer. When you are this good you should tell us a little more about yourself!

The selection of tunes is nice and the pacing of the CD well done. A couple of tunes like the first one, "Peppermint Life," are illustrative of the dynamics the musician is capable of using very effectively. There are some Blues tunes that have become the signature type of music for harmonica, but Richard does a good job of bringing some refreshing treatment to the music. While you will hear some harmonica cliches like note bending, etc., they are done with taste and very appropriate to the music. Likewise the moving treatment of the Ellington tune, "In a Sentimental Mood," was very satisfying. I could imagine this tune being played in a dark smoky bar, the musician playing his heart out and causing all the listeners to get a tear in their eye with remembrances of past loves.

One of Richard's own compositions titled "Winter Sun at Nobska" was an excellent piece that reminded me of a tone poem. The exploration of the sounds and nuances of his harmonica were used to very good effect in a most interesting piece.

One piece that will be familiar to most listeners was "When Johnny Comes Marching Home." Richard's performance of this old, well-weathered tune did a great job of giving the impression that Johnny was indeed marching home.

The standout on this CD for me was "Old Man River," that wonderful Kern & Hammerstein tune from Show Boat. I admit I have a certain fondness for Broadway musicals since I also play theatre organ. Historically, Show Boat was perhaps the first distinctly American musical. Prior to this, Broadway musicals were more fluff and dance numbers. Show Boat told a story and forever changed the face of the musical stage. Hearing Richard play this selection I could imagine the final scene where the beautiful baritone voice is heard singing the most famous piece and leaves everyone with shivers at the magnificence of this tune.

If you are an aficionado of the mouth harp or just wish to hear what can be done with this free reed instrument I can heartily endorse this CD. There is no backup instrumentation or fancy sound manipulation to mar the fine performance. You will simply hear a virtuoso performer playing harmonica in a very satisfying manner.

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