Wednesday, November 16, 2005
Bobby Hutcherson - Head On
Blue Note BST–84376
1. At The Source: 1. Ashes And Rust
2. At The Source: 2. Eucalyptus
3. At The Source: 3. Obsidian
4. Many Thousands Gone
2. Clockwork Of The Spirits
Bobby Hutcherson – vibes, marimba
Harold Land – tenor sax, flute
Fred Jackson – piccolo
Oscar Brashear – fluegel horn, trumpet
Todd Cochran – piano
James Leary, III – bass
Reginald Johnson – bass
William Henderson – electric piano
(unknown) – drums
(unknown) – percussion
Bobby Hutcherson worked with saxophonist Harold Land over several albums during the latter half of the 60s. As is evident from the recording, the pair effectively worked as joint bandleaders and, even though this recording is under Hutcherson’s name, he shares space evenly with Land. The sessions they recorded, many of which were not released for over a decade, were all moving in a post-bop style towards the avant-garde. This was probably the furthest they got. Afterwards, Hutcherson turned towards the prevalent fusion sound and only once more paired up with Land.
Head On opens with At The Source, a three-part track written, as was most of this recoding, by pianist Todd Cochran. Beginning with layered horns and reeds playing in slight discord, there is a feeling of space that has become better associated since with certain European styles of jazz. Hutcherson first is heard in part 2 of At The Source, where his low-key vibes intertwine with Cochran’s piano. The feeling of open space is continued and at times has remarkable similarities to MJQ recordings of the period (notably Space). At The Source ends with a low-key solo by Land, played around a slight African theme.
‘Many Thousands Gone’ is the centrepiece of this recording. Stretching out longer than any of the other tracks, it is also more free and features some of the most accomplished playing. Starting from another pseudo African theme played by the horns, this gives way quickly to a frantic bass run that continues the next 10 minutes. The unnamed drummer then catches up, before Hutcherson starts a frenzied run up and down his vibes in a very hard, post-bop style. Land’s solo afterwards owes plenty to Coltrane, although his sound is more soulful, playing in a lower register and more slowly without quite the technical ability of the Trane. Brashear solos next in a similar, if far faster, vein, followed by Henderson. Even though Henderson’s solo holds with the piece, due to the very nature of the electric piano, it just sounds funkier. Unfortunately for us, the length LP format means the track is faded, leaving only speculation as to what happened next. The bass player is quite clearly not ready to give in and, noticeable, there has been no solo by the song’s composer.
Side two opens with a track composed by Hutcherson, the only non-Cochran composition. As its very title ‘Mtume’ suggests, there is again a distinct African theme, this time emphasised by an unnamed percussionist and by the bass figure, which repeats throughout the track. Hutcherson, who as usual solos first, switches from vibes to marimba mid-solo, a change that not only further enhances the African theme but also is quite hard to spot. Next up is Land, followed by Cochran, neither of whom play particularly remarkable solos. Happily, the prominence in the mix of some complex drumming patterns more than make up for this deficiency.
The LP ends on a mellow vibe with a wonky, off-kilter bossa piece. The soloing here is all much more laid back, with some nice comping throughout by Cochran.
This is a more challenging LP than I had expected from my previous knowledge of Hutcherson’s work. However, its blend of post-bop with African themes and a feeling of space throughout have left me wanting more.