An exceptional soloist and charismatic bandleader, Bobby Hutcherson turned to the vibes after hearing Milt Jackson, and ever since his classic recordings for Blue Note in the 60s, his music has been distinguished by dazzling four mallet harmonic maneuvers, blazing tempos and unusual voicings. His uncanny ability to swing and suspend time made him an integral part of the 60s experimental movement. In this edition, George Lane looks back at Hutch's first recording, Dialogue.
Superb vibraharpist Bobby Hutcherson was the choice of many adventurous artists of the '60s who were trying to liberate Jazz from the constraints of the piano. The spacier tone and suspended presence of the instrument opened up harmonic and rhythmic possibilities that were ideal for the experiments and explorations of artists like Eric Dolphy, Jackie McLean and Andrew Hill.
In fact, I've always felt that Dialogue, Hutch's first recording as a leader, was actually Hill's date. Not only is his piano central to the thrust of this entire session, but he also contributed three compositions (a fourth, Jasper, was not on the original release due to time restrictions). An extraordinary composer, Hill's darkly lustrous and lyrically adventurous pieces are ideal for vibes, and his own approach to time and space at the piano is similarly liberated.
The stellar lineup is totally at ease in handling these challenging compositions, as well as two more by percussionist Joe Chambers, the lovely and airy 'Idle While' and the abstract, collectively improvised title cut.
Trumpet great Freddie Hubbard, as always, plays masterfully, and the incredible (and incredibly under-recognized) Sam Rivers plays tenor, soprano, bass clarinet and flute - all with consummate artistry and swaggering conviction. Bassist Richard Davis was a regular participant on so many envelope-pushing sessions because of his great versatility and commanding presence in any situation. Chambers is a master of dynamics who can swing effortlessly and glue together the most abstract elements into a solid pulse.
Hutcherson is an outstanding soloist as well as a tremendous accompanist. He approaches the instrument like a horn player, spinning off wonderfully fluid solos. His rhythmic thrust on Hill's driving groover 'Catta' and the gorgeous 'Ghetto Lights' both pushes the rhythm and frees the palette for the spectacular solos of Rivers and Hubbard. Hill's angular, almost-Monkish solos interplay beautifully with Hutch, his deeply vibrant block chords melding into the suspended backdrop of the vibes.
A beautiful and challenging example of classic '60s Blue Note avant-garde.