Van Hunt Interview

vanhuntBy Seher Sikandar

If you haven’t heard of Van Hunt, consider this your official warning: you will be perpetually whack if you don’t get on – right – now.  Now.  This funkaholic is performing live at Yoshi’s Oakland this Thursday, August 20th at 8pm only.  Tickets are $18 at Yoshi’s website.

“There’s no greater happiness than to be able to be yourself and pay your bills,” says Van after what he calls a “tumultuous two-and-a-half years” following his parting with Blue Note in 2007 (which took over his former label of about 5 years, Capitol Records).

And now he’s reemerging.  Waist deep in a new project he hopes to release in February 2010, Van describes his mental spaces for creating this record as having an ‘extreme range with lots of up’s and down’s.’

“It’s a vast project; I can’t imagine needing to make another record after it.”  Kind of a big deal.  But!  To hold us over in between what seems to be a monumental project, Van just independently released a free compilation of demos, acoustics, and b-sides titled, Use in Case of Emergency.  Featuring work recorded between 1997 and 2005, it’s kinda the ish – and his original cut of “Hot Stage Lights” (called “Man of the Year”), I have to say – is sorta amazing.

It’s clear this man is a true artist at heart – first and foremost and without a doubt – so it doesn’t come as surprise when he says the album won’t be released unless it’s done completely right.  ‘Doing it right’ this time around includes having a live band help with the tracks (instead of Van playing all the instruments like he usually does) – and that costs money.

I spent half an hour catching up with Van and getting a little peek into his world – all the way from his five-year-old, to records he’s bought, to what keeps him waking up in the morning.

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The Terence Blanchard Group’s Choices

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The new CD from three-time Grammy award winning trumpet player and composer Terence Blanchard was recorded in March 2008 in Blanchard’s hometown of New Orleans at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art. Choices addresses the choices we all make in life – both as a society and on a personal level. “Life is all about expansion and evolution. We make choices every day, none of which are right or wrong. They are simply choices that allow us to explore the variety of what’s before us.” — Terence Blanchard

Accompanying Blanchard on the album are longstanding band members Fabian Almazan on piano, Derrick Hodge on bass and Kendrick Scott on drums, along with newcomer Walter Smith lll on saxophone, all of whom wrote significant track contributions to the CD as well. Guest artists include writer, speaker, educator and activist Dr. Cornel West, critically-acclaimed guitarist and Blanchard protégé Lionel Louke, and singer, musician and composer Bilal. West performs spoken word pieces on the album with Bilal providing vocals on several of the tracks.

Choices was premiered at a series of concerts at the Ogden in late July 2009 which were filmed for an upcoming documentary. It will also be accompanied by a worldwide tour featuring Terence and his band.

Stream songs, see tour dates and watch more webisodes

Buy Choices on Amazon