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Soul Mates

Steve Charles—Proofing the upcoming issue of Wabash Magazine, I was re-reading a story I wrote a couple months ago about Steve Hunt ’76 and his daughter, Leslie.

The article begins with Leslie’s appearance as a finalist on Fox TV’s American Idol, but the piece is also about the musical gifts Leslie inherited from her dad, who is one of the most gifted musicians (and certainly the most talented percussionist) ever to attend Wabash.

During one of my trips to Chicago to hear Steve play free jazz with his band at Hotti Biscotti (one of the few places you can still hear music in a smoke-filled room!), Steve talked about his friendship with fellow Class of 76 musician Eric Johnson. Hunt, Johnson, Kyle Jones ’78, and Andy Murduck ’78 were the core of a group that played together on campus during Hunt’s Wabash days. Besides their many gigs on campus and around town, Steve has fond memories “of playing music late into the night in the basement of the Chapel.”

“We were like soul mates,” Hunt said of his friendship with Johnson, a friendship which continues to this day. Johnson chose music as a profession and lives in New York, while Hunt has a day job as vice-president of the Architectural Division of Northfield Block. The third band member, Kyle Jones, went on to law school, served as a legislator in Maine, and was instrumental in shutting down a nuclear reactor there. The trio was reunited in 1997 when they recorded their CD “Breakdown,” under the name EKS Crew—E for Eric, K for Kyle, and S for Steve, playing their style of jazz better than ever, 30 years after Wabash.

In the Wabash archives I found a photo of Hunt and Johnson from their Wabash days. Steve Hunt is looking up, watching Johnson, just as I watched him do three decades later in Chicago with his fellow musicians at Hotti Biscotti.

Playing music solo has its rewards, but there’s a reverie playing in an ensemble that is beyond anything a soloist will ever know. See if you can’t find it in Steve Hunt’s eyes in this shot I took of him playing at Hotti Biscottti. Then that look, with a more youthful intensity, in the photo from his Wabash days playing with Eric Johnson.

Soul mates.

Read about Steve and Leslie Hunt in “American Idyll,” the cover feature of the Fall 2007 Wabash Magazine, in the mail in time for the holidays.

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