Bobby Hutcherson

Live at Montreux

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Live at Montreux Review

by Michael G. Nastos

Although the music from this concert performance was released in part on recordings previously only available in Japan and Europe, this is the full set from the 1973 Montreux Jazz Festival teaming the extraordinary talents of vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson and trumpeter Woody Shaw, both in their prime. Where Hutch was a laid-back person and Shaw a firebrand, their styles somehow mesh beautifully as they split compositional duties and coalesce into a mighty force that expands the sum of their parts on these four lengthy tracks. Lesser-known pianist Hotep Cecil Bernard was on loan from John Handy at this time; drummer Larry Hancock proves quite worthy to be in this esteemed company; and Ray Drummond's bass playing is sharp as a tack and fluid, serving up substantial portions of lightness and darkness when called upon. The Hutcherson compositions "Anton's Bail" and "Farallone" are only available on this CD, and they are true gems, the former a pretty, easy swinger that is unforced, a bit bluesy and angular, conversely hip-heavy and subtly carefree, while the latter is an occasionally quickened waltz that is harmonically loaded, as Shaw attempts to match the vibraphonist's bright tones. The classic tracks penned by Shaw are nothing short of magnificent, as "The Moontrane" -- about as definitive a melody as has been in the trumpeter's repertoire -- sports a perfected short melody that is memorable and hummable. Similarly, the epic "Song of Songs" also utilizes a much thinner sound than his larger ensembles within its heavy modality in 6/8 time, as Shaw plays a progressive counter-harmony instead of the direct melody. Of course, Hutch and Shaw have ample room for solos, and they prove why they are the best in the business at inventing improvisations based on these viable themes. Ten years after these recordings, Shaw and Hutcherson would reunite for the trumpeter's Elektra Musician dates Night Music and Master of the Art. This excellent performance provides a perfect prelude to those equally potent sessions, and all come highly recommended.

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