Bobby Hutcherson | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Bobby Hutcherson 

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Last weekend vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson appeared in McCoy Tyner's star-studded sextet at Ravinia, and listening to him caress "I Loves You Porgy"--which he and Tyner played in duet--provided just one more reason to eagerly anticipate his own booking this week. His instrument doesn't invite artful exploration of a ballad's tender mercies the way the saxophone and trumpet do, but Hutcherson has found a distinctive way to coax sentiment from the vibraphone's whiz-bang percussiveness. In "Porgy," for example, a perfect grace note in the opening line presaged the effortless, harplike glissandi to follow; every phrase arrived with the soft, strong pounce of a well-toned tabby. Both Hutcherson's slow stuff and his wheeling and dealing at faster tempos benefit from a soulful optimism, tempered by what can only be called flower power (he took up residence in San Francisco in the early 70s). If you gathered all the vibraphone's groundbreaking practitioners on one stage--and you could, since all of them, from Lionel Hampton to Red Norvo to Gary Burton, are still alive--Hutcherson would stand out for the sunny cheer of his solos. It distinguishes his playing from Milt Jackson's sly cool and Burton's elegant machinery; it animates his sometimes abstruse melodies; and it warms the extended harmonies of his youth, when he helped Eric Dolphy, Jackie McLean, and Andrew Hill push the envelope of tonal music. Now in his mid-50s, Hutcherson integrates echoes of his past with a clear-eyed view of the present. He'll play with a Chicago rhythm section led by pianist Willie Pickens. Friday and Saturday, 9 and 11 PM, and Sunday, 4, 8, and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand; 312-670-2473. NEIL TESSER

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Bobby Hutcherson photo (uncredited).

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