Bobby Hutcherson - The right vibe

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Bobby Hutcherson stands tall in the pantheon of the vibraphone in jazz, his name is up there will all the greats stretching back to Lionel Hampton and Milt Jackson and inspiring later generations of players such as Orphy Robinson and Stefon Harris. In a rare interview, Hutcherson talks to Keith Shadwick about his heyday with the Blue Note label, the great friendships he built up with Andrew Hill and Eric Dolphy and the way his music has developed over a long career in jazz

Bobby Hutcherson - The right vibe
Bobby Hutcherson’s special brand of lyricism has graced our lives on record since the early 1960s, he being one of the few jazz talents of the day to emerge more or less fully formed as an improvising force. Today he continues to create music at a consistently high level of inspiration and in a variety of contexts. He has the gift to make even the most mundane melody sound intimate and sincere while his playing never dominates any group he leads, for Hutcherson is a strong believer in the necessity for interaction within any group. This was an aspect of his new album, For Sentimental Reasons, that he was minded to emphasise.

“Renée Rosnes is a very special pianist, she has so many accomplishments. She and I have known each other a long time. She anticipates in a creative situation and always complements what others are playing. The voicings she chooses, too… they show her sensitivity as a player. The music never gets clogged up. With Al Foster in the band it makes everything become possible. He is the most listening of drummers: his responses to what you are doing are just incredible. There is a dialogue going on in there all the time, all the time… he’s answering you every bar. He can do anything, play anything, he’s always giving you new ideas, he’s so creative.”

I recalled to him that this emphasis on the band’s ability to listen to each other closely and engage in give-and-take directly echoed the titles of two famous albums from his own past – Dialogue, his first as a leader, and Conversations, where he appeared under Eric Dolphy’s leadership. He acknowledged this briefly, but was more intent on thinking through what he was talking about regarding the quartet on For Sentimental Reasons.

“This was such a great group to record with: you know, we had sessions booked to do the gig, and on the first day I think we recorded nine selections. Just went straight through them. It sounded great, so we just kept going. It all came out so naturally. The next day, we just dropped back in and did a couple extra, to round things off. No pressure. It was such an easy sessions because of the people. They made it easy.”

After he finished praising bassist Dwayne Burno’s role in the group, I asked him whether there were any overt homages being paid on the album. The whole idea of a sentimental album could have been inspired, for example, by Tommy Dorsey’s trombone lyricism.

 “No, I don’t think so. Not in that direct way. These were songs I’ve long felt strongly about You know, they were standards and a couple of older jazz pieces, ‘Jitterbug Waltz’, ‘Along Came Betty’. Things I’ve always wanted to do. It was an album where I wanted to play things simply. You know it’s the hardest thing of all, to play simple. Take a melody, play it clean and simple and make it mean things. It’s easy enough to come in, play a whole lot of notes and fill things up, but to respect the song, keep that line; it’s hard. I enjoyed doing that with this group: we really understood each other.”

This is an extract from Jazzwise Issue #111 to read the full feature and receive a Free CD Subscribe Here...