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Bobby Hutcherson Quintet
Carleton University, November 18, 1967

Reviewed by Brian Blevins
Coda Magazine – January/February 1968 Vol. 8 No. 5

A review is such a futile thing. If the full beauty of music could be expressed in words, there’d be no need for its existence as a distinct art form.

Hutcherson & Co. on this occasion consisted of Joe Chambers, James Spaulding, Reggie Workman and Cedar Walton. The artistry and ability of Chambers and Spaulding are known to anyone familiar with Hutcherson’s recordings on Blue Note. Chambers is a complete musician, and has provided much of the group’s book. Three of his compositions were played this night – “Oblique”, “Nocturnal”, and a piece called “Joe’s Song” for want of a better title at the time of performance. This was the first time the group played Nocturnal, and the only one on which full use of the charts was made. It is a beautiful ballad, out of the Debussy/Ravel bag, with Spaulding soloing on flute. Chambers is a masterful percussionist capable of both dynamic solos and the most delicate subtleties, always with interesting ideas. It was stated that he wanted to devote more time to the composing of music rather than playing it and the fact that the jazz scene can’t afford to lose either talents gives rise to ambivalent feelings on my part.

Hutcherson was responsible for the opening piece, “Blues My Man”, described as a vehicle for the group to get warmed up and into other things. An up-tempo blues with lots of soloing spacer it featured Spaulding on alto sax, eyes closed in concentration as cascades of notes poured out of his horn.

“Tranquility” and “Little B ‘s Poem” are twin Hutcherson ballads which can be heard on his record, Components. Spaulding played flute on both. On Tranquility, Reggie Workman took the first of two breathtaking solos of the evening. His bass has all-metal strings and appears very responsive tithe touch. When backing up other soloists, you know that Reggie’s in there, but it is difficult to determine precisely what he ‘s doing. His versatility comes to light in his solos. One of the top-ranking bassists of today, it is a pity that he is not given more recognition.

Economics prevent Hutcherson from keeping a group together. Cedar Walton was at a disadvantage in not having played with the others for any length of time, and was confined to reading charts throughout. This did not detract from his superb improvising, however. Any one of these musicians could play by himself all night and still hold the attention of an audience.

The performance was well-structured, a mood mixture created by a variety of musical f arms. The opening blues was followed by balladry Little B ‘s Poem and Tranquility, the free form Oblique, Joe’s Song, the funk-rock “Blow Up” (Herbie Hancock’s film theme), “Nocturnal”, and the closing piecer “Kryptonite”’ a ”free” piece written by James Spaulding.

It was on “Kryptonite” that Workman took the solo that broke everybody up. Plucking and bowing he coaxed sounds out of that bass that defy description. Much has been said about the Hutcherson sound on vibes. If there is a more inventive artist on this instrument in today’s music, then I have not heard him. As spare and as economic as his music often sounds, Hutcherson does not hold himself backs but literally lunges into the keyboard, attacking it with everything that is in him . This is not a gesture of anger, but an indication of involvement. It just happens. It is not a theatrical artificiality.

Another side of his music is heard in the ballads, where he releases huge warm sounds which float out and wrap themselves around you, massaging your brain. Bearing in mind that Walton and Workman have not worked extensively with Hutcherson, the group showed astounding solidarity and rapport. If you want Hutcherson to happen where you’re at.

End Notes:
Brian Blevins was at this time [1967/1968] Bobby Hutcherson’s “agent”. In my experience Brian went on to England to join Island Records. His whereabouts since my visit to London in the early seventies are unknown.

His review is from a concert on the same tour where Cedar Walton replaced Stanley Cowell and is intended as an abstract opinion.

The band in my photographs from January 31,1968 at Hart House, University of Toronto can be heard on Patterns, Blue Note LT – 1044
Bobby Hutcherson: January 27, 1941 – August 15, 2016

Comments can be sent to classicimprov@yahoo.ca
A click, then another click enlarges the photographs.