BOBBY HUTCHERSON HAROLD LAND, tenor sax and flute; BOBBY HUTCHERSON, vibes; CHICK COREA, piano; REGGIE JOHNSON, bass; JOE CHAMBERS, drums. “HE IS thoroughly distinctive.” “His progress is truly astounding.” “His playing is beautiful and exciting.” These reactions came from a group of vibists after a presentation labeled “A Generation of Vibers.” The occasion was the 1968 Monterey Jazz Festival Sunday afternoon agenda. The program title coined by Cal Tjader was inspired by Phillip Wylie’s old “A Generation of Vipers.” Red Norvo, Milt Jackson, Tjader, Gary Burton and Bobby Hutcherson were the five vibe players involved. The above comments were made in reference to Hutcherson’s imposing talents. Tjader elaborated, “Bobby is a very dynamic player. Like Lester Young leading the way for extensions on his fresh approach with the tenor saxophone and like Coltrane setting things up for next steps, I think Bobby represents the next logical step in the generation of vibists through his tremendous emotional and physical involvement, his concept of freedom, his own sound, and his own brand of excitement. He is one of the young rabbits — playing straight through. And the way he gets to it — the feeling is beautiful.” Young Gary Burton whose own musical development renders systemic terms inefficient, commented willingly, “Of all the new young vibists — Roy Ayers, Walt Dickerson, Lyn Blessing, and Mike Mainieri, for example — Bobby Hutcherson is the only one with a really different musical personality that indicates great evolutionary potential. Although this development stems from Milt Jackson roots, he has developed to the extent that this relationship is obscured most of the time because Bobby has moved on to become his own man. I respect him very much.” Value judgments from his colleagues carry a high level of
validity. Add to them Hutcherson’s self-evaluation and we have a few more pieces of a picture of Hutcherson’s music. He has continued to devote much time to self study for he feels that his search for more music is “within myself.” In the last couple of years he has had under his own leadership several recordings principally made up of his compositions. In these albums, “Components,” Blue Note 84213, “Happenings,” Blue Note 84231, and “Stick-Up,” Blue Note 84244, Hutcherson’s inventiveness and leadership have added to his growing stature. He has been an object of praise since the first of this decade when he broke into the jazz scene in California. In New York City he was so impressive that he was in demand by numerous musicians — Eric Dolphy, Jackie McLean, Al Grey, Hank Mobley, Dexter Gordon, Archie Shepp, Grant Green, Grachan Moncur and Charles Tolliver to name some of them. Hutcherson has the ability to shape his playing to the ideas and concepts of other musicians. Another personalized asset is his ability to transcend the sound of the piano with his more open and freer sound on the vibes. His chime-like sound is different from the pianistic effects and tight pedaled approach that characterize most vibists. There is more harmonic permissiveness for other soloists in the group; this is due to Hutcherson’s individualized comping style — his chords seem to suspend in space. Along with the clusters he plays, he does use space judiciously and beautifully. As he remarked, “The sound of space itself is truly beautiful.” Certainly, it is understandable that so many musicians in the vanguard of jazz prefer to interact with the challenging and creative directions
Hutcherson provides. In turn he finds that he must listen as openly as possible to others and to himself, thereby immersing himself in the total experience. During the past year in particular he has continued to work in Gerald Wilson’s orchestra whenever possible “to keep my ears open to orchestrations.” This is a logical enterprise since Hutcherson uses his vibes orchestrally. Listen to him on two of Wilson’s recent albums– “Everywhere” on Pacific Jazz and “California Soul” on World Pacific. Wilson who has known Hutcherson since the vibes came into the latter’s musical life speaks enthusiastically, “Bobby is an exceptional soloist. He has accomplished an incredible amount in a comparatively short time. He is very thorough. Some people have it and some don’t. Bobby’s got it!” Furthermore, Hutcherson has been co-leading a unit with Harold Land playing mainly in West Coast jazz hostelries and in concerts, and the future promises college concert tours beyond the Western borders. Early this year he and Land spent three weeks in New York City — a week at Slugs’ and two in the Village Vanguard. This album was recorded following these club dates. Pianist Chick Corea reminisced about the brief association with Hutcherson and Land, “It was a marvelous experience. We played the way we felt — with complete relaxation. We played for ourselves the whole three weeks. Bobby is so lyrical, so easy to play with, so open. And each time we played a tune, it was a vastly different thing each time.” Corea also holds great admiration for the tenor work of Harold Land. On this album Land’s sound is fresh, confident and strong; his solos
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make up some of the many highlights on the date. As to Hutcherson’s esteem for Chick Corea, he responded warmly, “Chick can do whatever needs to be done and he puts his own thing into it. He’s really fast and alert. He opens up things very well and blows my mind. He’ll open up things so fast I have found myself wanting to shout out at Chick to wait up!” Corea has played with Blue Mitchell, Pete LaRoca, Herbie Mann, Cal Tjader, Art Blakey, Willie Bobo, Stan Getz among others; he is currently a member of the Miles Davis Quintet. Like Hutcherson, Corea responds to a diversity of sounds. Bass player Reggie Johnson is empathetically keen and openly imaginative on the session. He switched from trombone to bass around five years ago. Johnson has played with Archie Shepp and Sonny Rollins. His big full sound is a vital part of this album’s scintillations. As Shepp has indicated, Reggie Johnson is a formidable bassist. Joe Chambers is a remarkable drummer. His sharply essential accents, colors and textures show why he has been teamed with Hutcherson on so many albums. His playing is tremendously rewarding for the attentive listener; his strength is discernable yet he exerts it without overpowering the listener. His contouring comes out in a natural manner and he is never gauche. In fact he is a very tasteful drummer. Chambers has played with Freddie Hubbard, Eric Dolphy, Andrew Hill, Archie Shepp, Charles Lloyd, Joe Henderson, Jimmy Guiffre, and Donald Byrd. It is obvious that this acutely probing group of contemporaries established a remarkable rapport.
With the openness that they mutually required and gratifyingly enjoyed, this album presents a stimulating listening experience. New feelings, textures, shades, shapes and sounds come with every hearing. Hutcherson said, “I like to put people into a mood. The main thing is to set a mood by creating the sound that communicates the mood. Then the other musicians will jump into it. Some of the most simple things come out sounding intricate. It is delusive. I think simplicity is difficult to achieve. Each tune in the album has a definite mood which emerged.” Herzog opens the album brightly and should place the listener in a receptive mood for the emotional vibrations. For Hutcherson, the tune conjures impressions of a duke . . . “a German duke.” The title selection Total Eclipse has an alternate unlisted title of Mysterioso because of the eeriness it apparently carries. It is aptly titled Total Eclipse as the last chord opens up with light and resolution somewhat like the phenomena of the sun’s total eclipse by the moon. In the resolution there are sounds that prompt me to think of the vision of the corona — a beautiful cosmic halo surrounding the solar sphere. And at the edge of the sun’s disk the solar prominences shoot out like brilliant tongues of flames up into the light of the coronal atmosphere. Man, it’s an intriguing track in many ways. Matrix is a twelve bar blues composed by Chick Corea who previously recorded it in a trio version. It has an infectious theme that swings. Same Shame has a long meter. The title was evoked by Hutcherson’s reaction to the effect of “sameness.” He explained, “It’s the same as the sound of two chords. The first chord is really four different chords
against the sound of the first chord creating the impression of an over all sound of just two chords.” A pretty waltz closes the album. Hutcherson used tiny bells on Pompeian because he feels that rhythm instruments not only provide more of a percussive sound with tonalities, but they lend themselves toward patterns. He enlarged on this thought, “We tried to develop extended patterns, and so on. This chain or expansion process is more easily done with rhythmic instruments.” By the way, dig Harold Land’s flute playing. Hutcherson believes Land will be attracting much attention on the flute eventually and admires Land’s self discipline and self imposed demands in regard to the instrument. As he noted, “It is difficult to come through with clean sharp notes on the flute.” Harold Land has expressed himself with much passion and warmth on the tenor for years and he is warming hearts with his performances on this album. This album again demonstrates that Bobby Hutcherson is not merely a reflector but an explorer, a modifier whose relentless and patient efforts toward artistic perfection will make it impossible for his place in the generation of vibers to ever be eclipsed. –HERB WONG KJAZ, San Francisco and Jazz Editor, Urban West and FM & Fine Arts
Cover Design by FORLENZA VENOSA ASSOCIATES. Cover Photo by FRED SELIGO. Recording by GEORGE SAWTELLE (Plaza Sound Studio). Mastered by BERNIE GRUNDMAN, 2012. P 2013 Blue Note Records. Blue Note® is a registered trademark of Capitol Records, LLC. g 2013 Blue Note Records. All Rights Reserved.
Vibes maestro Bobby Hutcherson linked up for the first time in the studio with Harold Land on the hard-bop tenor saxophonist’s 1968 album The Peace-Maker, released on the Cadet label. Recorded in two sessions (December 11, 1967 and February 26, 1968), the Harold Land Quintet disc didn’t make many waves. But it did forge the creative union that proved fertile on Bobby’s seven Blue Note releases featuring Harold beginning with 1968’s Total Eclipse and continuing through 1975’s Inner Glow. While Bobby received plaudits for leaning toward the avant-garde (case in point, his angular mallet work on Eric Dolphy’s 1964 Blue Note album Out to Lunch), working with Harold—a straight jazz shooter who was a member of the Max Roach/Clifford Brown band and whose later lyricism conjured up comparisons to classic John Coltrane—proved beneficial to developing his melody-rich, harmonically involved music. Recorded on July 12, a few months after his first studio session with Harold, Total Eclipse featured Bobby leading his quintet that comprised an impressive rhythm section of pianist Chick Corea (who had recently recorded his breakthrough
album Now He Sings, Now He Sobs), bassist Reggie Johnson and drummer Joe Chambers. With the Hutcherson-Land collaboration just starting to bloom, Total Eclipse expands beyond a typical
hard-bop exercise into an exploratory zone. With four of the five tracks composed by Bobby (a Chick tune sandwiched in the middle), the album dips in and out of his adventurous sensibility, ranging from the hard
TOTAL ECLIPSE swinging to a space of ethereal expedition. The album opens with elation on “Herzog,” with Bobby and Harold sailing through the theme that opens into Chick inventively rippling a
marvelous solo. Bobby follows with a joyous vibes romp (listen to him whooping it up in the background), which leads to Harold’s elated gusts before the entire band returns to the head, with Reggie and Joe keeping the driving beat steady. It’s a great entrée into Bobby’s world. The title track, the beauty of the bunch, begins as a slow and emotional mood piece then takes off into exhilaration. Bobby lightly ruminates with his mallets, and Harold delivers a spirited break, with Chick supporting sparkling comps. Likewise “Same Shame” shifts from the melancholy to the animated with Harold’s smoky solo a highlight. It’s a pleasing 9:28 ride that clears the pathway for the finale, the trippy “Pompeian.” This is questing voyage music as Bobby opens it with a playful sing-songy waltz theme with Harold laying down his tenor in favor of the flute. The middle of the tune opens up in free form, as an avant-leaning, charged and complex romp with Bobby providing dark colors on the marimbas. The song ends on the whimsical light side again
with the theme. A sublime excursion. In the middle of Total Eclipse, Chick launches into the uptempo “Matrix,” a song from Now He Sings, Now He Sobs, which electrifies the band. Harold and Bobby speed in their solos and Chick revs up for a brief spin while Joe bashes on his drums and Reggie accelerates with a quickened walking bass line. It’s the liveliest jaunt of the collection. Chick, on a break from Miles Davis’ employ, played on the session after filling the piano chair at the quintet’s live dates at the Village Vanguard prior to the recording at Rudy Van Gelder’s New Jersey studio. Total Eclipse offers the beginning glimpses of the vital Hutcherson-Land Quintet that stayed intact (the official band pianist became Stanley Cowell) into the ‘70s as one of the most important, but often underappreciated bands of that transformational period of jazz. —Dan Ouellette, 2012