June 17, 2024

Bobby Hutcherson
(32 Jazz – 1991/2000)
by John Barrett

The album has a simple concept. Bobby Hutcherson had never played with Tommy Flanagan; the two work in mutual admiration, all stated with precision and taste. They are delicate on”Nascimento”; at a breezy tempo, Flanagan seems to tiptoe. Bobby’s on marimba and his solo ripples deep, rolling like a wooden wheel. When he speeds up, Tommy gets more aggressive; his own solo quotes “Beautiful Girl”most appropriately. The title tune glimmers through a maze of cymbals: as Billy Drummond crashes, Bobby meditates. His notes are round, placid; the whirlwind around him makes it more beautiful. (Listen close for Flanagan: his Eastern turn is very effective.) “Beyond the Bluebird” sounds a bit like MJQ, in its elegant chords and weeping mallets.

Tommy’s the star, and his bluesy solo works great against the bass. Both men give”Del Valle” a ton of sustain (the tune floats like a worried cloud) and Bobby gives “Am I in Love” the bounce it needs. No doubt – these guys should have gotten together sooner.

Of special interest are two duets,full of that contemplative calm. On “Pannonica”, Tommy blends Monk-isms with thick languid chords. Bobby’s part is decoration, ringing on top with happy little bells. The two trade fragments of melody on “Love Letters”, which turns melancholy in their hands. Bobby makes a low rolling hum, with Flanagan’s icy notes on top – a still-life portrait, sad but beautiful. Peter Washington is a major presence on”Zingaro” (including a finely bowed intro) and the marimba works its way into your heart.

And they glide off into the night on Billy Childs’ sublime “Heroes”. Bobby’s notes are simple and blunt, while Tommy whispers from the distance. Everything is relaxed, and everything is gorgeous. When Bobby wanted to play with Tommy, producer Orrin Keepnews called it “the best suggestion I’ve heard in a long time.” You will agree – so do I.

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