But can emotion actually be taught? Hutcherson thinks so. "Well, you gotta talk about it. How can they be aware if [they] don't talk about it? The sun doesn't come up the same way every day, you get all these different things that happen through the day, that's what should be happening on the bandstand. You should see the whole spectrum of stuff coming out. They should be talking about these things. And let me see you play without your instrument. Have you ever seen a good comedian that makes you laugh and he doesn't say a word? He hasn't even said anything but you understand that this is what his life is about! A good musician [doesn't] even put the instrument in [his] mouth or hands. Now if you can do that, [then] put the instrument in your hand and boy, it's gonna be a whole lot easier to make it happen.
While it's uncertain if that comedic concept translates into the jazz idiom, Hutcherson makes it clear that what he expects from the music and the musicians is very simple. "I like people who take a chance and are themselves. Again, I like people who play for the passion and it's not all about trying to win that race. I like nice people.
"A lot of people who I played with were being put down by other musicians, but they stood up for what they were doing. [Woodwind multi-instrumentalist] Eric Dolphy was one of those. I mean, he was being insulted right and left. I was at an Eric Dolphy rehearsal one time and this guy was playing trumpet and we're right in the middle of rehearsing for a record date and all of a sudden this guy takes his horn out of his mouth, opens up his trumpet case and starts packing his trumpet and we're all still playing the song. He says, 'Eric, I don't like you, I don't like your music and I'm not gonna play on this record date.' We were all just like, 'Oh, my God!' So he's getting ready to go out the door and Eric Dolphy says to him, 'If I can ever be of any help to you please don't hesitate to call me.' And he meant it with all his heart. And after Eric said that we all wanted to play so much for Ericthat was the biggest punch of love I ever saw in my life. It made the record date, which was Out To Lunch
(Blue Note, 1964), the most unbelievable record date.
Recently Hutcherson became involved with the SFJazz Collective, a jazz octet led by saxman Joshua Redman, whose goals are to honor the work of one great jazz composer annually while showcasing their own compositions in a kind of touring residency. "[SFJazz Collective Executive Director] Randall Kline got in touch with me and told me what ideas they had. We started developing [them] more and more and there it was. And it's been a rewarding experience. I think it's a lot of fun. It's great to get together with musicians every day and rehearse and everybody writes and works on those compositions and we become a family.
Fame and praise haven't blunted Hutcherson's enthusiasm or gratefulness for where he is. Many years after the debacle with the erased notes, he made a life-changing decision. But did he think he'd ever be here?
"Oh, no, Hutcherson said. "I'll tell you, I'm just lucky to have been able to participate with a lot of people. I don't feel like I'm an innovator. I used to talk to [drummer] Joe Chambers about this and one of the things he used to say to me was, 'You know, if you want to do different stuff you have to come up with different combinations, either musically or melodically, harmonically, whatever, different combinations. If you keep putting apples, sugar and flour together you're gonna keep coming up with some sort of apple pie. You've got to start looking for something different to go in the recipe, otherwise the recipe will come out the same.' To be able to try some of the things that I've tried I've been lucky and lucky enough to have known some wonderful people who got a chance to play and be themselves. As long as people are themselves, boy, the trip can really happen.
SF Jazz Collective, SF Jazz Collective (Nonesuch, 2004)
Bobby Hutcherson, In the Vanguard (Landmark-32Jazz, 1986)
Bobby Hutcherson, Solo/Quartet (Contemporary-OJC, 1981)
Bobby Hutcherson, Live at Montreux (Blue Note, 1973)
Bobby Hutcherson, Dialogue (Blue Note, 1965)
Grachan Moncur III, Evolution (Blue Note, 1963)
Top Photo: Jos L. Knaepen
Bottom Photo: Dragan Tasic