Bobby Hutcherson, whose vibraphone playing developed deep and complex harmonies, died on Monday at home in Montara, California. He was 75. When Hutcherson came to prominence in the early 1960s, he was in the forefront of young musicians already adept at bebop but seeking greater freedom. He expanded his instrument’s range of tonal colors, with particular attention to dramatic use of resonance, and he was open to ideas pioneered by free jazz saxophonist Ornette Coleman. Along with saxophonists Eric Dolphy and Joe Henderson, pianist McCoy Tyner, trumpeter Freddie Hubbard and other musicians in their twenties, Hutchinson flourished rhythmic and harmonic adventuring beyond bop conventions. In the title tune from his 1965 album Components, we hear a headlong sense of excitement and a bit of the time-play in which Hutcherson loved to indulge. Soloists are Hubbard; alto saxophonist James Spaulding; Hutcherson; and pianist Herbie Hancock. Ron Carter, the bassist, does not solo on this track.
In 2010 Hutcherson became a Jazz Master of the National Endowment for the Arts. For a thorough review of his career, see Jesse Hamlin’s article in The SanFrancisco Chronicle’s SF Gate.
Hutcherson was the subject of an NPR Jazz Profiles program that Capitol Public Radio’s Paul Conley produced in 2001. To hear excerpts from it and Hutcherson’s own words about his music and career, click here.