It’s Sunday afternoon, and the Brooklyn, New York-based, Ohio State-conceived band Huntertones is, of course, traveling through Texas. Live performances have become an almost daily routine for the full-time musicians, but the 1,500 miles that separated Huntertones from its home over the weekend does not even begin to scratch the surface of the group’s reach.
The former OSU collective, consistently consisting of saxophonist Dan White, trumpet and sousaphone player Jon Lampley, trombonist and beatboxer Chris Ott, guitarist Joshua Hill, bassist Adam DeAscentis and drummer John Hubbell, has spent the majority of 2016 circumnavigating the globe.
The American Music Abroad program, sponsored by the United States Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, provided the Huntertones with an extraordinary platform to showcase and share its talents in foreign countries such as Ecuador, Togo and Zimbabwe.
“Being able to not only visit these places but also make music and share music with other people, it was a pretty inspiring experience,” said White, a 2012 graduate in jazz studies and music education.
The open-minded excursion, as White described it, had also been taken by some of the most influential jazz musicians on record, including idols of the band Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington. Huntertones, with its fusion of hip-hop, jazz, folk, soul and blues, was one of 49 bands chosen from 250 applicants to expose more than 40 countries to American music.
However, traveling to foreign territories presented communication obstacles that the visiting musicians would learn to adapt to using their talents.
“A lot of times we would have language barriers between us, and the moment we played music and we did what we were there to do, all of the barriers or the differences between us completely fell down,” White said. “We’re all human beings, and the power of music can really break down all of those barriers.”
But the natives of the countries that Huntertones visited also returned the favor by sharing their musical culture.
White listed the spicy salsa music of Ecuador and the hypnotizing techniques of West African drummers as possible inspirations for the band.
After spending the first portion of 2016 experiencing firsthand how music can transcend cultural hurdles, members of the Huntertones are now applying what they learned from crossing borders now that they are touring the United States.
“We became a little bit more open-minded about our shows and the purpose of our shows,” White said. “We were getting much more comfortable going on the fly and being OK with that unknowingness of the situations with the shows and also some of the music.”
The cohesiveness band members formed at OSU helped them to quickly adapt to a new performance technique. White backed up the claim by reflecting on a past recording experience when the band cranked out an entire EP in one session.
The band members credited the support of the Columbus music scene for helping them to convert their hobby into an occupation.
The band’s claim to making a career out of its music is in its ability to make each individual performance of a song freeform and distinctive.
While the group does not commit solely to being a jazz sextet, its sound is jazz by definition: organic art that does not try to conform to one specific sound.
“What we were doing in Columbus was very unique in that there are groups that play jazz, but the type of sound that was coming out of our band was something that was pretty new, and even in New York it’s something that is proven to be pretty novel,” said Lampley, a 2013 graduate in jazz studies.
New York has offered other advantages to the band.
The overabundance of musicians actually benefits the group, making it easier to add pieces to the band’s ensemble. It also has allowed Huntertones to connect with some of its idols.
Lampley got to appear on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” with Jon Batiste and tour with O.A.R.
“After being there for a couple years, things start to feel a little smaller, and you kind of start to get your own network going,” said Ott, a 2011 graduate in jazz studies and music performance.
This Saturday, Huntertones will be stepping back from the hustle and bustle of New York and returning to Natalie’s Coal Fired Pizza, where it all started.
The band maintains its improvisational approach for live shows, constantly evolving from set to set.
“Musicians are communicating and collaborating differently each night and taking risks,” White said. “That allows the music to breathe, and there’s this energy that is achievable that I think people really can feel.”
Doors for the Huntertones show on Saturday will open at 10 p.m. for all ages. Tables are available for $15 and bar standing room for $10.