By Ralph Burnett
Although the tracks include Toto-mates Steve Lukather and the late Jeff Porcaro, David Hungate's debut solo album, Souvenir (Clubhouse CRCD 20202) bears no resemblance to what you might expect to be a "Toto does jazz" album. And unlike so many solo efforts stemming from famous unions, David's record is not so much a players album as it is a showcase of his seasoned ability to write memorable melodies. "The link between the music I love and this new album is the lyrical approach," affirms Hungate. "I wanted this record to be song-based rather than just a virtuoso display for bass chops. There's a difference between music and techniques, just like there's a difference between ballet and acrobatics."
It was as a conductor and guitarist for Sonny and Cher's touring band that David formed a musical relationship with David Paich and Jeff Porcaro, which would become the nucleus of what would be honestly described as one of the few rock supergroups. Behind the scenes of Toto, Hungate, Paich and Porcaro were caught up in a flurry of studio work and eventually came to record and tour around Boz Scaggs' multi-platinum Silk Degrees album.
It's not surprising that, as time progressed, Hungate and Porcaro became the premier rhythm section on the L.A. studio scene. "We were pretty much opposites," says David of the late drummer. "Jeff was this incredibly energetic and aggressive kid from Connecticut while I tend to be more shy and laid back. And it was that way when we played together. I sat back on the beat and he pushed it forward, creating a nice, little tension. Jeff told me several times I was his favorite bass player. There were obviously guys he played with that had more chops, but we complemented one another's styles. We were from different places, but we found a common ground between us musically. Jeff was one of a kind. I don't know if I'll ever find a musical experience like that again."
Produced by Hungate with Randy Goodrum on some tracks and Robin Crow on others, Souvenir is a friendly collection of wide-screen moods that range from romantic and haunting to intense and soaring. Although diverse, boasting musical guests from Chet Atkins to Brandon Fields, the concept flows and seems very connected. "That was the challenge," says David. "Liking so many different kinds of music, I tried to find a single area where I could combine different styles and have them be appropriate for the context of the album."
In reflecting on the past and looking into the future, David admits, "I'd like to do some jazz production and writing and maybe even another solo album at some point. I'm satisfied with my career. I've enjoyed working in the studio as a producer and session player. It's nice to be recognized by the public, but I don't live for it."