Rifftides reader Scott Mortensen has created two web sites worth investigating. One is dedicated to the vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson, a major figure in jazz since the 1960s. The site includes a discography, photos, a substantial biography containing links to information about Hutcherson’s recordings, and suggestions of additional resources for scholars and listeners.
Among the things Mortensen writes about Hutcherson are these:
Hutcherson’s work remains entirely compelling. He brings something special every time he plays. In recent years, it’s especially noticeable on his recordings as a sideman. If he doesn’t play on a particular track, you miss him. When he does play, everyone sounds better.
Hutcherson is not especially well-known for his composing skills, but I think he’s a terrific and terrifically-underrated jazz composer. At some point, another jazz musician should do a tribute CD and record nothing but Bobby’s compositions. I think it would be wonderful, and it would show the breadth and depth of Hutcherson’s composing abilities.
Mortensen’s Hutcherson site is not a scholarly endeavor devised to please academics and researchers. It is a fan’s appreciation of a musician who has certainly not fallen through the cracks but who deserves more attention than he gets.
Before you move on to the next section, take a few minutes to watch Hutcherson in tandem with his hero and greatest influence, Milt Jackson, not long before Jackson died.
You may have heard the recording of Bill Evans at the Montreux Jazz Festival in which, just as he begins playing, bells in the village chime polytonaly against the chords he is using. He says, “Ah, Charles Ives.” Jazz musicians have known and loved Ives for generations. Mortensen’s Ives web site contains a page called “Essays and Ruminations,” in which he hits on one of the basic reasons so many jazz players and listeners are drawn to Ives:
Ives’ music is not tidy. It can’t be contained by normal musical forms because these structures do not accurately represent the way that Ives perceives the world. (This is one of the reasons why Ives constantly tinkers with traditional forms: adding or removing movements from the four-movement symphony; creating “sets” from pieces that defy any conventional structure; recycling music again and again from a one work to another.) Ives’s music acknowledges that our perceptions of the world–and the understanding that we construct from those perceptions–are in a constant state of flux. It is never-ending process. Therefore, from Ives’ point of view, creating a work of art and presenting it as complete is disingenuous.
Mortensen’s Ives site includes a survey of the composer’s works, recordings of them, essays by Ives, books about him, quotes, FAQs and a news section. It is not a substitute for the site of the Charles Ives Society, but works hand-in-hand with it.
This sentence from the conclusion of the biography could use updating:
One thing is certain: nearly 50 years after his death, Ives’ influence is greater now than it has ever been.
Make that “more than 50 years after his death.” Ives died in 1954. Time flies when you’re having fun with Ives.
Gap Mangione says
From my piano professor (emeritus, Syracuse University), George Pappastavrou, who was one of the first to record the Ives Concord Sonata and the Ives quarter tone piano pieces — in reaction to the mention of Ives on your blog which I sent to him:
“Thanks! It is always reassuring to be reminded that all important art retains a subversive element which continues to be recognized and valued by musicians from the most widespread and divergent styles and points of view!
Walt Whitman was right to observe that “all music is what awakens within you when you are reminded by the instruments”; Ives’ music is the ultimate reminder!”
>You may have heard the recording of Bill Evans >at the Montreux Jazz Festival in which, just as >he begins playing, bells in the village chime >polytonaly against the chords he is using. He >says, “Ah, Charles Ives.”
I couldn’t find this. Maybe different recording?
(I’ve heard it only on a bootleg tape, widely circulated many years ago. To my knowledge, it has not been released commercially and has nothing to do with the Verve album of Evans at Montreux. — DR)