Bobby Hutcherson: Skyline

Jim Santella By

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Hard bop vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson, 58, came to the jazz world during one of its most fertile eras: in the late fifties and early sixties. His early experience in the clubs and coffeehouses of Pasadena (California) prepared Hutcherson for New York City's fast pace and innovative ways. His recording contract with Blue Note placed the vibraphonist squarely in the middle of jazz's mainstream of the 1960s, and today his current Verve release holds the same connotation. It's an eclectic session of up-tempo jaunts, lush ballads, Latin syncopation, and other small ensemble workouts. Kenny Garrett participates on half the session with a heady, mostly lower register saxophone tone and an improviser's attitude much like that of the leader's. For an in-depth look at what motivates Bobby Hutcherson and how others have influenced his performance, see Fred Jung's recent interview with the vibraphonist.

Kenny Garrett and Bobby Hutcherson make a fine pair of conversationalists. Their imaginations run wild and there's a little fire in everything they accomplish; yet both are lyrical and offer seamless phrases. Their alternating improvised solo work on "I Only Have Eyes for You" is quite similar in approach. Both leave a little space here and there, leaving traces of the familiar melody for the listener to recognize, while moving freely around the chords. Hutcherson's "Pomponio," a Latin jazz dazzler, lets marimba and alto sax stretch out over the rhythm section's powerful son montuno. Geri Allen tosses out fluid phrases that ripple over the percussive keyboard; her interludes, particularly on "Delilah," "Candle," and "Chan's Song," make a welcome addition. John Towner Williams' "Love Theme from Superman" is included to emphasize lush lullaby harmonies from both pianist and vibraphonist. Christian McBride drives the unit with an overt pulse that is particularly effective through his rhythmic Latin solo on "Tres Palabras." Al Foster's consistent performance is highlighted on "Pomponio," as he drops bombs and flirts with the various metallic textures of his drum set. Hutcherson has the track record to back up this stellar performance, so another great session comes as no surprise.


Track Listing: Who

Personnel: Bobby Hutcherson-vibes, marimba on "Delilah" and "Pomponio"; Kenny Garrett-alto saxophone; Geri Allen-piano; Christian McBride-acoustic bass; Al Foster-drums.

Title: Skyline | Year Released: 1999 | Record Label: Verve Music Group

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