Bobby Hutcherson ‘Enjoy the View’ (Blue Note) 4/5

Bobby-HutchersonAs the legendary Blue Note celebrates seventy-five years of existence with a re-activated new and back catalogue under the tutelage of musician/producer Don Was, one of the label’s prodigal sons returns to the fold after some thirty-five years away. Vibist Bobby Hutcherson returns with an album that harks back to the mid-1960s albums when he recorded with the likes of Larry Young, Grant Green and Elvin Jones and were anything but predictable, with a gentle nod to the avant-garde. If you thought that organ combos were restricted to the soul-jazz idiom and somewhat formulaic in nature, then think again for there are some harder hitting grooves on this new recording and the pairing of Bobby Hutcherson with saxophonist David Sanborn is a truly inspired one and should definitely be extended to future collaborations. Ably assisting proceedings are Hammond B organist Joey de Francesco and drummer Billy Hart who is ever inventive with subtle polyrhythms throughout. A reworked take on Hutcherson’s ‘Montara’ is a real breath of fresh air and whereas the original was a languid, laid back Latin percussive number, the new version is altogether more fiery with strong saxophone work from Sanborn and excellent comping from de Francesco.

Bobby Hutcherson almost single-handedly re-invented the context in which the jazz vibraphone could be performed and was present on some of the seminal ‘new thing’ recordings such as Eric Dolphy’s ‘Out to Lunch’, Jackie Mclean’s ‘Destination Out’ and ‘Action, Action, Action’, and Andrew Hill’s ‘Judgement’ just some of the classic mid-1960s albums he cut as a sideman for Blue Note. A recent BGP re-issue under the leadership of long-term collaborator Harold Land, ‘Chroma’ (1971) reveals that even into the early 1970s Hutcherson was still pushing back the boundaries, though by the mid-1970s and the domination of jazz-fusion and jazz-rock, his sound was becoming increasingly mellow to suit the times. More recently, Hutcherson has enjoyed something of a revival in interest and the well received tribute to the music of John Coltrane on ‘Wise One’ (Kind of Blue, 2009) and an earlier set of standards on ‘For Sentimental Reasons (Kind of Blue, 2007) were an indication that the vibist was most definitely back in town and indeed fully rejuvenated with life. Of the three Hutcherson originals, ‘Hey Harold’ stands out as both the most challenging and with the funky back drop as an additional attraction. A truly liberated Sanborn shines here and his playing throughout is inspired while an expansive Hutcherson solo retains the listener’s attention while de Francecso lays down some distinctly Larry Young influenced organ licks. By contrast ‘Teddy’ is a mid-tempo burner that features Sanborn at his most lyrical while the haunting closer ‘You’ allows both de Francecso and Hutcherson the opportunity to comp in unison and then take extended solos while Sanborn is given full reign to explore. A real return to form, then, for the vibist.

Tim Stenhouse