Leon Hunt’s first solo offering, Miles Apart is a true ‘transatlantic session’ with as much of the recording taking place in Nashville, TN as in Leon’s home town of Bath, England. ‘Miles Apart’ features some of the best acoustic musicians from both the US and the UK and effortlessly spans several musical disciplines. Most noticeable are Bluegrass, Jazz and Celtic music, styles that Leon describes as being; “natural bed partners… whilst Bill Monroe was embracing his Scottish heritage Earl Scruggs was busy re-working New Orleans jazz tunes – bluegrass music has always provided a strong connection between traditional music and more improvisational forms of music like jazz”.
"My instinct is to thoroughly dislike a good banjo player (particularly when he is also a nice bloke - there's only so much one can take). I spent years struggling with the damned thing so it can be enormously irritating to hear it played with such consummate ease.
What really impresses me is the fact that unlike most British 5-string banjo players Leon’s done so much more than just slavishly copy the American masters. Yes, there's plenty of Scruggs, Keith and Fleck knocking about here, but I love the way he’s taken the quintessentially American instrument that was used for music brought into Appalachia by English, Irish and Scots musicians and brought it all back home. You listen to the stuff he's done with Flook - three-fingers can do so much more than one pick. His version of The Silver Spire with Michael McGoldrick is also a real killer.
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Then there's the more jazzy side of his playing. I'm a huge Ellington fan and also partial to a bit of Django, so seeing tunes like Caravan and Nuages on the list concerned me a bit. I needn’t have worried though as he treats both with appropriate reverence and necessary invention.
Musicologists often bang on about how songs, techniques and styles moved to the United States from Britain and Ireland, then bounced back having picked up some blues and some jazz, then back to the States, then back again. Leon seems to have dragged the two together in a way that makes it almost impossible to hear the join. He sits along-side Michael McGoldrick and Flook just as easily as with bluegrass masters Stuart Duncan and David Grier - and believe me, these people don't throw their lot in with just anybody.
This is a great album. Put it on at dinner parties - it will impress your friends. Give it to anyone who has denigrated the banjo - it will embarrass them. Give it to other banjo players who haven't heard Leon play - it will show them what's possible with a lot of work and a lot of talent."
Nick Barraclough's (BBC Radio 2)