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Bobby Hutcherson: The Kicker

CD: Blue Note 7243 5 21437 2 6

Tracks & Composers
1 If Ever I Would Leave You (Lerner, Loewe)
2 Mirrors (Chambers)
3 For Duke P. (Hutcherson)
4 The Kicker (Henderson)
5 Step Lightly (Henderson)
6 Bedouin (Pearson)

Bobby Hutcherson (vib); Joe Henderson (ts); Duke Pearson (p); Grant Green (g); Bob Cranshaw (b); Al Harewood (d)

Recording Date & Location
29 Dec 1963, Englewood Cliffs, NJ

Hutcherson's first recordings as a leader were not released until 1999.

According to Michael Cuscuna's liner notes for this CD, Hutcherson actually began making his very first album as a leader around 1960, before he left California. The recordings were for Dick Bock's Pacific Jazz label, but Hutcherson abandoned them after recording only four songs. The line-up included West Coast saxophonist Walter Benton. (I don't know the other personnel. If you do, please send me an email.) This music has never been released.

The Kicker, Hutcherson's first session as a leader, doesn't aim as high as the string of masterpieces that would soon follow, but it's still excellent music.

"Mirrors" is the tune that most clearly anticipates the direction that Hutcherson would be heading in the next few years. And this isn't a coincidence, since the piece was composed by Joe Chambers. (Chambers went on to make enormous contributions to most of Hutcherson's classic Blue Note sessions, both as a composer and a performer--even though he doesn't play on this one.) The song features a lovely lead-in and solo by Bobby. Some critics have over-emphasized the avant-garde aspects of Hutcherson's music, especially when referring to his earlier years. But this song demonstrates that Hutcherson has always been a beautiful balladeer.

"For Duke P" is the only Hutch composition on the album. It's a solid Blue Note-style swinger. Joe really digs in on his own composition, "The Kicker." He swings like crazy and Hutch sounds great too. When Grant Green jumps in, the tune will remind you of Idle Moments. (No surprise there. This is the exact same line-up as that album.)

At over fourteen minutes, "Step Lightly" gives everyone plenty of time to stretch out. Duke P's economical, swinging touch reminds me of Basie. He's featured on the intro and he takes the first solo. Bobby is next; he plays a bluesy, musical solo that will make you go "Yeah!" Grant Green sounds groovy. Then Joe jumps in and steals the show. As the name implies, Pearson's "Bedouin" has a vaguely Eastern, Arabic feel. The tune is one of Pearson's early efforts to re-contextualize jazz in a "world music" framework, although the solos end up being fairly straight-forward, blues-based jazz.

For my money, the strongest pieces on The Kicker are "Mirrors" and "The Kicker," although "Step Lightly" and "For Duke P." are interesting too. In some ways, Joe Henderson comes off as the strongest presence on the recording, which is not a bad thing since he sounds great.


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Original text copyright Scott Mortensen 2006

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