Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Bobby Hutcherson - Oblique

Blue Note 63835

Recorded July 21st, 1967

1. 'Til Then
2. My Joy
3. Theme From Blow-Up
4. Subtle Neptune
5. Oblique
6. Bi-Sectional



Bobby Hutcherson started his career playing avant-garde and free musics alongside such major figures as Eric Dolphy and Archie Shepp. Latr in the 1960s his style began to change as he took on aspects of hard-bop. For his two Blue Note dates of the period (this one and 1966's 'Happenings'), he hooked up with Herbie Hancock and created music of great beauty and complexity.

It doesn't start too well - opener 'Til Then' is carried along on the latin groove so beloved of hard-boppers, but for me the playing here is a little bland, the changes generic. Better is to come though. 'Theme from Blow-Up' is a Hancock composition, and it shows. The melodic and rhythmic ideas are more complex, and the band raise their game well. Of particular note is the interplay between Hutcherson and Hancock - they sound almost telepathic at times. One will start a line and the other will finish it, all within the same phrase. Hutcherson's opening solo on this track is superb, and the point where he and Hancock seamlessly merge into one another towards the middle of the track is simply sublime.

An essential part of the album's sound is 23-year-old bassist Albert Stinson. Another tragic and underrated figure, Stinson played on several seminal LPs (including Chico Hamilton's 'The Dealer') before an overdose a few years later robbed the world of jazz of another promising talent.

Criminally, this 1967 session lay unissued until 1980 when it had a Japan-only issue (a common tactic, several Blue Note sessions were buried in this way - Jimmy Smith's superlative 'Cool Blues' being another example). Fortunately the 'RVG Edition' reissue program rectified the availability problems late last year and now one of Hutcherson's finest sessions is available for us all to enjoy.

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