Coming fresh on the heels of his groundbreaking work with Eric Dolphy, Bobby Hutcherson's debut album is a masterpiece of "new thing" avant-garde jazz, not really free but way beyond standard hard bop. Dialogue boasts an all-star lineup of hot young post-boppers -- trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, woodwind player Sam Rivers, pianist Andrew Hill, bassist Richard Davis, and drummer Joe Chambers -- and a set of imaginative compositions by either Hill or Chambers that frequently push the ensemble into uncharted territory. The result is an album bursting at the seams with ideas that still sound remarkably fresh, not to mention a strong sense of collectivity. Hutcherson has so many fine players on hand that the focus is naturally on group interaction rather than any particular soloist(s), setting up nice contrasts like the fiery sax work of Rivers versus the cooler tones of Hutcherson and Hill. Hill's pieces stand tradition on its head, twisting recognizable foundations like the blues ("Ghetto Lights"), Latin jazz ("Catta"), and marching bands ("Les Noirs Marchant," which sounds like a parade of mutant soldiers) into cerebral, angular shapes. Chambers, meanwhile, contributes the most loosely structured pieces in his delicate, softly mysterious ballad "Idle While" and the nearly free group conversations of the ten-minute title track, where Hutcherson also plays the more African-sounding marimba. What's impressive is how focused Hutcherson keeps the group through those widely varied sounds; no one is shortchanged, yet the solos are tight, with no wasted space or spotlight-hogging. Dialogue remains Hutcherson's most adventurous, "outside" album, and while there are more extensive showcases for his playing, this high-caliber session stands as arguably his greatest musical achievement.
by Steve Huey