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The hunt for perfection 

Van Hunt's On the Jungle Floor

"It's time to throw this baby out in the water and see if it can swim," says Van Hunt from the stage of the 10 High Club. A six-piece band surrounds the singer, as do several dozen fans who, despite less than a week's notice for the show, gather in the darkly lit basement to watch. He immediately launches into "If I Take You Home," the opening track from his forthcoming second album, On the Jungle Floor, scheduled for a Tues., April 4, release on Capitol Records. "Let me take you home," he sings to the ecstatic audience. "I'll write your name in a song."

Van Hunt's 2004 self-titled album drew a three-and-half-star review from Rolling Stone (which simply stated "the bar has been raised"), and a 2006 Grammy nomination for Best Urban/Alternative Performance. Several weeks ago, he performed at this year's Grammy ceremony alongside Joss Stone and Joe Tyler, paying tribute to Sly Stone. So what is he doing at a small club?

"I'm a stickler for detail," Van Hunt explains prior to the gig. A former Atlanta resident, he now lives in Los Angeles, but returned to town six months ago to finish recording On the Jungle Floor, rehearse his band and prepare for a series of tours. He was using the 10 High Club show, as well as a concert at the Drunken Unicorn a few days later, as warm-up gigs to help work out the kinks. He takes the performances seriously. "Playing these shows is [the] equivalent of playing at the Variety Playhouse," he says.

Back at the 10 High Club, Van Hunt and his band launch into "Dust," as people dance and cheer around him. It's like that for an hour as the group alternates familiar numbers from his debut ("Seconds of Pleasure," "Down Here in Hell [With You]") with new joints ("Being a Girl," "Ride, Ride, Ride"). They riff on the Waitresses' "I Know What Boys Like" and Prince's "Joy in Repetition." The fans ate it all up.

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