Bobby Hutcherson

Wise One

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Unlike Bobby Hutcherson's previous super mellow effort For Sentimental Reasons, this recording is charged with increased energy and vitality, inspired by the music of John Coltrane. Hutcherson plays the part of Coltrane's tenor and soprano sax with his vibraphone quite tastefully, while guitarist Anthony Wilson adds a new chordal dimension to the music far different than a woodwind instrument. Pianist Joe Gilman is perfectly matched with his bandmates, a supple, inventive, yet forceful musician who lends great depth to the background, or in tandem with the lead instruments. California drummer and longtime confrère of Hutcherson Eddie Marshall plays as well as ever, while bassist Glenn Richman is the much lesser known but able fifth wheel. The leader is as familiar as anyone with this music, being a survivor of the turbulent '60s jazz scene, where he was in the midst of helping change the music. Here he adds extraordinary taste and precision to these originals of Coltrane's, and standards the saxophonist made his own. Perhaps the most beautiful of all Coltrane compositions is "Wise One," very well done in its flowing, no-time, introductory melody followed by a steady samba based mid-section, with Wilson's guitar gently urging it onward. "Equinox" is usually heard as interpreted by others in a Latin vein, but here the quintet uses a modal tick-tock rhythm to blues swing, a heavy piece made lighter, especially via great guitar harmony from Wilson, and Gilman's piano chords. Hutcherson's greatest gift as a vibraphonist is his sense of self, never overplaying and expertly reining in his emotions as on the ballad take of "Nancy," the adaptable sonic tone he conceives during "Spiritual," or an easily swinging version of "Dear Lord." Then again, the band can collectively jump into fifth gear with upbeat Brazilian-based takes of "Out of This World," "All or Nothing at All," or "Like Sonny," where a new sonic imprint with the different instrumentation shines through, and Hutcherson's virtuosity is unchallenged. This is a welcome addition to the catalog of Bobby Hutcherson, who has recorded too few dates on his own as a leader since the late '70s when his Blue Note label contract expired. It is certainly his best effort of the past three decades, and a shining testament to the combined mainstream and progressive values he has always held close.

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