Roland Users Group
San Diego-born jazz pianist Todd Hunter pulls from an eclectic musical background to fuse a unique jazz sound. His most recent CD, “Have A Nice Trip,” has received top reviews and airplay from Los Angeles jazz station KKJZ (KJAZZ) 88.1. A self-described “seasoned road warrior,” Todd has also toured with the Brian Setzer Orchestra and jazz saxophonist Paul Taylor to name a few, and he just wrapped up a tour with legendary pop vocalist Dionne Warwick. Whether he’s playing gospel, jazz, or pop music, Todd relies on some classic Roland sounds to define the music.
How did you get the gig with Dionne Warwick?
A couple guys from the band recommended me. My audition was pretty much the first gig. She doesn’t really like to rehearse, or not much preparation. You just kind of have to know what you’re supposed to do. My rehearsal was the sound check. I just showed up and played the show. I had about a week to prepare.
Tell me about Dionne’s shows. How many people are in the band?
Normally, it’s two keyboard players, one being myself, and we do all the orchestral parts. Then there’s the musical director, who’s the piano player, then a drummer, percussionist, and bass player. So for most gigs, it’s just us. Sometimes we play with an orchestra. In fact, we did a whole Australian tour where we played with orchestras. So that’s fun, because I get to play what I want. I’ve been with this band for about 4 ½ years.
When do you use the Roland sound modules?
What are some other sounds you use?
I use some samples – the main sample I use is Stevie Wonder on “That’s What Friends Are For.” I cut up his harmonica solo into parts, so I can play it and keep it in tempo easily and perform it live. Dionne is old school – she just wants to sing, and she wants everybody to be right behind her.
I also did a smooth jazz gig for about 7 years with a guy named Paul Taylor. I would use my 1080 for a lot of pads and a D-50 for some signature sounds, and a lot of the solo stuff. I always liked the D-50, because you can get some really fat sounds – they’re so fat and big, and it’s a little bit dirty-sounding. I haven’t played anything yet that does that kind of thing. I tend to lean a little towards the old stuff – I love the Fender Rhodes sound.
You also use the Fantom-XR rack module.
I got the Fantom module recently, and it is working out great. The strings are big and fat and expressive. Between that and the brass sounds, I'm finding a lot I can work with.
What inspiration is behind your solo CDs?
My dad plays swing and bebop — he has kind of a Red Garland sound. He even has red hair [laughs]. I got more into Coltrane and a lot of Miles’ [Davis] later stuff, and I love Joe Henderson.
I also always loved Latin, Brazilian, salsa and bossa nova stuff. I also got into gospel when I started playing at a church. My stuff is kind of just a combination of those sounds. We all play the tunes live. On the last CD, Phil Upchurch plays guitar on it. He also wrote the liner notes. I try to make upbeat, positive-sounding music. But not happy jazz – there is a difference! [laughs]