Bobby Hutcherson

Medina/Spiral

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A most welcome CD reissue, Medina/Spiral pairs two accomplished sessions by the Bobby Hutcherson-Harold Land quintet from 1968 and 1969 (neither was officially released until 1979-80), which marked the first two times the official lineup of Hutcherson, tenor saxophonist/flautist Land, pianist Stanley Cowell, bassist Reggie Johnson, and drummer Joe Chambers all recorded together as a unit. In one sense, it's understandable why this music stayed on the shelf for over a decade: it didn't fit the late-'60s zeitgeist. It had nothing to do with fusion, and it wasn't aggressively far-out like much of the avant-garde had gotten. Yet, on the other hand, it isn't so understandable -- the music was quite good, often excellent, and the quintet had a knack for making sophisticated, mainstream-leaning modal post-bop sound surprisingly soulful. Granted, these albums may have been a shade less distinctive than Hutcherson's earliest sessions, but the levels of composition and execution remained top-notch. Every composition is by a group member -- Hutcherson has three, Cowell and Chambers four apiece, with Land contributing one. Soulful yet firmly modern, this group was solid from top to bottom, and with Total Eclipse out of print, Medina/Spiral is the best available introduction to their underappreciated work. [One track from the original Spiral LP, "Jasper," was left off this reissue; however, since it was an outtake from Dialogue, it didn't really fit to begin with, and was more at home as a bonus track on Blue Note's CD reissue of that album.]

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