Here are some questions I've encountered as I built this site and talked
about it with others:
What's so special about Bobby Hutcherson's
I've thought for a long time about this. Perhaps the fact that there
is no one else like him is all we need know to declare him a great artist,
a great musician. But that still doesn't answer the question, What
makes him different from others?
His music can be deceptively simple. Often, it has a naked, joyous, un-self-conscious
but thoughtful quality that I've never heard in any other jazz musician.
Other times, his music is more exploratory, and his vibraphone seems to
be snatching tones from the ether, tones that seem to be stolen from another,
less linear, spirit-world. Sometimes, he swings, deep, deep, deep
in the blues, the American songbook, the jazz tradition. But he doesn't
play licks; he plays music. Hutcherson is a virtuoso, and he's capable
of jaw-dropping displays, but his technique is never flashy. It's always
in the service of music that has a sort of ever-present joy in being.
Maybe that's it. It seems like this relish for life has been a constant
from the beginning of his career to the present, regardless of the musical
One other point, vital to understanding Bobby Hutcherson: his music has
a sort of poise, a sort of musical balance that is sometimes undervalued
in jazz. Yes, his music sometimes inclines toward ecstasy, but it equally
addresses calm reflection, questioning, and an everyday, all-about-us
sort of joy. Maybe that's what attracted Hutcherson to the vibraphone.
It's an instrument that calls for balance: rhythm, melody, harmony; a
drum and piano fused into one.
What are your favorite Bobby Hutcherson
It's hard, but if you forced me to choose just a few, here's what I consider
to be "Essential Bobby Hutcherson":
Hutcherson's run of Blue Note recordings in the 60's--from The
Kicker through Now!--is an
amazing achievement. Every one of these is nothing less than excellent.
Hutcherson deserves the "box set treatment" that fellow Blue
Note artists like Herbie Hancock and Dexter Gordon have received for their
Hutcherson's recordings from the 70's are not as consistent as the work
he did in the previous decade. (His one-and-only outright dud, Natural
Illusions, dates from 1972.) Even so, Hutcherson continued to
make compelling records. In recent years, Blue Note has reissued Montara
and San Francisco.
But even more interesting albums like Head
On, Cirrus, The
View from the Inside, and Knucklebean
have never been reissued on CD. (I understand that the folks at Mosaic
are planning to issue a "Mosaic Select" set of Hutcherson's
work from the 70's.)
What are your favorite recordings
of Hutcherson as a sideman?
Again, it's tough to choose because there are so many. These are the
ones that immediately come to mind:
What are Hutcherson's most well-known
Hutcherson is not especially well-known for his composing skills, but
I think he's a terrific and terrifically-underrated jazz composer. At
some point, another jazz musician should do a tribute CD and record nothing
but Bobby's compositions. I think it would be wonderful, and it would
show the breadth and depth of Hutcherson's composing abilities. Here's
a short list of some of Hutcherson's more well-known songs:
- "Little B's Poem" - originally recorded on Components
This is Hutcherson's calling card. It's definitely his most frequently-recorded
composition. Here's a sampling of musicians who have recorded it: Dee
Dee Bridgewater, George Cables, Doug Cairn, Larry Coryell, Joey
DeFrancesco (with Hutch), Madeline Eastman, Kevin Eubanks, Kevin
Hays, Eddie Henderson, Tete Montoliu, Renee Rosnes, and Jim Rotondi.
- "8/4 Beat" - originally recorded on Stick
- "Same Shame" - originally recorded on Total
Eclipse; also on The
View From the Inside
- "Montara" - originally recorded on Montara
- "Highway One" - originally recorded on Highway
There are many, many other Hutcherson compositions that deserve
to be well-known. (For example, I think "Even Later" is a stunning
composition, but many people don't know it because it was released on
a fairly obscure LP, Cirrus. Or
what about "Messina" from Solo/Quartet?
Or "Second-Hand Brown" from Color
Schemes?) Again, I think a Plays the Music of Bobby Hutcherson
CD is in order! Kenny Garrett, are you listening?
Who are some of the musicians
who have collaborated with Hutcherson?
Bobby has worked with an amazing number of jazz legends. The following
list only is a sampling of the musicians who have collaborated with him
||Eric Dolphy, Kenny Garrett, Prince Lasha, Jackie McLean,
James Spalding, Sonny Simmons, Miguel Zenón
|| Curtis Amy, Manny Boyd, Hadley Caliman, Chico Freeman,
John Gilmore, Dexter Gordon, Craig Handy, Joe Henderson, Harold Land,
Branford Marsalis, Billy Mitchell, Ralph Moore, Joshua Redman, Sam
Rivers, Sonny Rollins, Pharoah Sanders, Archie Shepp, Wayne Shorter,
||Oscar Brashear, Dave Burns, Donald Byrd, Jerry Gonzales,
Freddie Hubbard, Lee Morgan, Nicholas Payton, Woody Shaw, Charles
||Curtis Fuller, Al Grey, Grachan Moncur, Steve Turre
||John Abercrombie, Gene Bertoncini, Bruce Forman, Grant
Green, Barney Kessel
||Geri Allen, Kenny Barron, George Cables, Chick Corea,
Stanley Cowell, Albert Dailey, Tommy Flanagan, Hal Galper, Herbie
Hancock, Barry Harris, John Hicks, Andrew Hill, Hank Jones, Les McCann,
Mulgrew Miller, Duke Pearson, Renee Rosnes, Joe Sample, McCoy Tyner,
||Ron Carter, Bob Cranshaw, Richard Davis, Ray Drummond,
Reggie Johnson, Herbie Lewis, Cecil McBee, Christian McBride, Barre
Phillips, Rufus Reid, Albert Stinson, Buster Williams, Reggie Workman
||Joe Chambers, Leon "Ndugu" Chancler, Jack DeJohnette,
Billy Drummond, Peter Erskine, Al Foster, Al Harewood, Eric Harland,
Beaver Harris, Roy Haynes, Billy Higgins, "Stix" Hooper, Elvin Jones,
Philly Joe Jones, Victor Lewis, Eddie Marshall, Harvey Mason, Mickey
Roker, Lenny White, Tony Williams
||Joey DeFrancesco, "Big John" Patton, Larry Young
||Airto, Candido, Jerry Dodgion, Gene McDaniels, James
Newton, Lou Rawls, Dianne Reeves, Gerald Wilson
If I were to point out two collaborators who had the most lasting impact
on Hutcherson's earlier music, I would suggest Joe Chambers (drummer,
composer) and Harold Land (tenor sax, flute). But many others, like McCoy
Tyner and Herbie Hancock, are collaborating with Hutcherson to this day.
What is a vibraphone?
From the New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, Volume 3
A vibraphone (or vibraharp or vibes) is a tuned percussion instrument
consisting of a set of metal bars arranged like a piano keyboard; in contrast
with the two ranks of a xylophone, all the bars are mounted on one level,
facilitating the use of three or four mallets and the playing of chords.
Each bar is suspended over a tube resonator containing a revolving vane
or metal disc; the rotation of the vane causes a repeated opening and
closing of the resonator, producing a vibrato. The speed of the rotation,
and thus the vibrato, is controlled by an electric motor. When no vibrato
is desired, the motor is switched off and the vanes rest in a vertical
position, leaving the resonators fully open. The vibraphone has a compass
of three octaves and is usually played with rubber-tipped or yarn-wound
mallets. It has a foot-controlled sustaining device that operates in a
similar way to the sustaining pedal of a piano (p 842).
Vanes in a vibraphone resonator
See also the Wikipedia
article about vibraphones.
What is a marimba?
A marimba is a musical instrument in the percussion family. Keys or bars
(usually made of wood) are struck with mallets to produce musical tones.
The keys are arranged as those of a piano, with the accidentals raised
vertically and overlapping the natural keys to aid the performer both
visually and physically. The concert marimba is pitched an octave lower
than its cousin, the xylophone. Both xylophone and marimba bars are usually
made of rosewood, but presently, synthetic substitutions are becoming
more and more popular.
See the remainder of the Wikipedia
article about marimbas.