NEA jazz master Bobby Hutcherson is the most accomplished vibraphonist of his generation. He is a master of melodic, harmonic and rhythmic improvisation on both the vibes and the marimba. He has performed or recorded with nearly every major living jazz musician.
Born in Los Angeles in 1941, and raised in Pasadena, Hutcherson took a few piano lessons at an early age. But, he says, “I only played piano for my own enjoyment.” Returned to the vibes after hearing the music of Milt Jackson. “One day I was walking down the street and I heard one of his records and that started it I have never tried to directly copy his style, but he's been a great influence on me…” He briefly studied the vibes with Dave Pike.
While still a teenager, Hutcherson worked around Los Angeles with such top musicians as Charles Lloyd and Curtis Amy. In 1960 he toured the country with a group led by AI Grey and BilIy Mitchell before settling in New York in 1961. He worked on and off with Jackie McLean for a year, quickly earning a reputation for his full, fresh sound on an instrument that was still a rarity in jazz. From the 1960's he played with some of the leading New York players, such as Hank Mobley, Archie Shepp, Eric Dolphy, Charles Tolliver, Herbie Hancock and Grachan Moncur, III. He began recording as a sideman during this period, appearing on records with Eric Dolphy, Dolly McLean, Herbie Hancock, Tony Williams, Dexter Gotdon, Andrew Hill, McCoy Tyner and Grant Green.
In 1964, at the age of 23, Hutcherson won the Downbeat critic's poll as “Talent Deserving Wider Recognition” on the vibes. The following year he played with Gil Fuller's big band at the Monterey Jazz Festival, and cut his first recording as a leader, Dialogue, on the Blue Note label. He continued to record with Blue Note for the next twelve years. During this time Bobby released two masterful recordings for Blue Note Records “Stick Up!” and “Dialogue” that would define the vibraphone as a jazz instrument for decades to come.
Beginning in 2007 Bobby Hutcherson made a series of recordings with Kind of Blue Records. The first recording in the series titled “For Sentimental Reasons” was a recording of classic standards and showcased Bobby Hutcherson at his most melodic. Accompanying Bobby on this date were Renee Rosnes on piano, Dwayne Burno on bass, and Al Foster on drums. In 2010 Bobby Hutcherson released “Wise One” on Kind of Blue Records to wide critical acclaim. This recording was a reflection on the work of John Coltrane and featured Bobby’s longtime touring band from the San Francisco Bay Area with Joe Gilman on piano, Glenn Richman on bass, Anthony Wilson on guitar and Eddie Marshall on drums. In 2012 a scintillating live recording from Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola titled “Somewhere In the Night” on Kind of Blue Records featuring Bobby Hutcherson with the Joey DeFrancsco Trio was released.
In 2014, Blue Note Records released an all-star collaboration titled “Enjoy The View” with Bobby Hutcehrson, David Sanborn, Joey DeFrancesco, & Bill Hart.
Bobby Hutcherson was named an NEA Jazz Master in 2010 and during that year he toured with fellow NEA Jazz Master pianist Cedar Walton in a quartet along with David Williams on bass and Eddie Marshall on drums to celebrate this honor. At the 2012 NEA Jazz Master awards Bobby Hutcherson performed in a Duo with Kenny Barron in tribute to Charlie Haden. Although now afflicted with emphazima, Bobby Hutcherson’s performance was spell bounding and is cited as the finest performance ever done at an NEA Jazz Masters ceremony. Today Bobby Hutcherson performs infrequently in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Of his approach to music and life today Bobby Hutcherson states: “I want to squeeze as much life as I can into the day and at the end of the day, when I'm exhausted, I say 'Well. I don't think I can do any more today, I’ll start again tomorrow',” “I'm in a different phase of my life right now and really enjoying where I am,” Hutcherson says. “With music, I found something that I could devote the rest of my life to. If I hear people talking about how they want to make a record and make a lot of money, I want to say 'No, no, no, no. no. That's not what it's about. You're rich already, just to be involved in this music. How about the thrill of participating instead of vying for a certain position? Enjoy being tossed around in the sphere of life and love being tumbled around inside that bowl. Jockeying for position to get on top of that bowl is a dangerous proposition. I just want to be able to walk into a room, go about my business and leave, having caused the whole room to change.”
Bobby Hutcherson was born in Los Angeles, California on 27 January 1941. He grew up in Pasdena. Hutcherson was exposed to jazz from an early age, and his family had some connections to the local jazz scene. (His brother was a high-school friend of Dexter Gordon and his sister would later date Eric Dolphy.) He started studying piano as at age nine, but he found the formality of the training stifling. In his teens, Hutcherson decided to take up the vibraphone after hearing a Milt Jackson record. He studied informally with vibist Dave Pike, but, for the most part, he is self-taught on the instrument. Hutcherson's own musical career began when started playing local dances with his friend, bassist Herbie Lewis.
After high school, Hutcherson played with local jazz musicians Les McCann, Charles Lloyd, Paul Bley, Scott LaFaro, and Curtis Amy. (Hutcherson's first full-length album as a sideman was with Amy and Frank Butler, titled Groovin' Blue.) Later, after moving to San Francisco, Hutcherson joined an ensemble co-led by Al Grey and Billy Mitchell, and the band went on to record several albums in both of the leaders' names. During this time, Hutcherson frequently played chords using a four-mallet technique (now more commonly associated with vibist Gary Burton) because there was no pianist in the group. However, since the end of the 1960's, Hutcherson has only occasionally used this technique and has focused instead on more horn- like, linear playing. Around 1960 Hutcherson began working on an album as a leader for Dick Bock's Pacific Jazz label, but he abandoned the effort after recording only four songs. (These recordings have never been released.)
Bobby Hutcherson crossed over on August 15, 2016
From 1967 to 1971 he led a quintet with Harold Land. Among those who belonged to the group as sidemen were the pianists Chick Corea, Stanley Cowell, and Joe Sample; the double bass players Reggie Johnson and Albert Stinson; and the drummers Donald Bailey and Billy Higgins.
Hutcherson moved to San Francisco in 1971 and won the International Jazz Critic's Poll as the “World's Best Vibest.” During the '70s and '80s he performed and recorded regularly as a guest or co-leader, appearing on records with McCoy Tyner, Dexter Gordon and Sonny Rollins. He signed with Columbia in 1978 & and recorded the highly acclaimed “Highway One Conception: The Gift of Love” and “Un Poco Loco”. In 1979 he performed as part of an all-star jazz group at the historic Havana Jam Music Festival in Cuba. From 1981 he toured internationally and made recordings as a member of the Timeless All-Stars, with Harold Land, Curtis Fuller, Cedar Walton, Buster Williams and Billy Higgins.
In 1985, when veteran producer Orrin Keepnews launched his adventurous new jazz label, Landmark Records, the first release was Hutcherson's “Good Bait”. He has gone on to record “Color Schemes”, “In the Vanguard”, “Cruisin' the Bird”, “Ambos Mundos” and “Mirage” on the Landmark Label. In 1986 he was featured in the Warner Brothers release, Round Midnight along with Dexter Gordon and Herbie Hancock.
In 1994, on the Blue Note label, he recorded Manhattan Moodes, a duo recording with McCoy Tyner. This is a collaboration that has continued to wow Jazz Audiences for over a decade. In 2003 – he again recorded with McCoy Tyner on “Land of Giants” (Telarc Records). The tour that followed this recording along with Charnott Moffett on bass and Eric Harland on drums resulted in some of the most stunning music in recent jazz memory.
In 1999 Bobby Hutcherson recorded the critically acclaimed CD “Skyline” for Verve Records. Skyline's all-star alignment, with pianist Geri Allen, bassist Christian McBride, drummer AI Foster, and special guest saxophonist Kenny Garrett, exemplifies the high standards to which Hutcherson holds himself, as well as his penchant for testing himself in new waters.
Jean-Baptiste Fredeeric Isidor, Baron Thielemans, professionally known as 'Toots' Thielemans, was widely regarded by most people as the most accomplished harmonica player in the world. Of course, that's not all he did and it would be a great injustice to label him as just a good harmonica player. If you are not into Jazz, you may not have heard of his name but you have probably heard his music many times and I suspect you liked it. He is equally good at playing guitar, the accordion and many other instruments. For instance, you will never hear anyone whistle jazz better than Toots.
Born on 29 April 1922 in Brussels, Belgium, he quickly got interested in music and was playing the accordion at age 3. Later he started playing the harmonica and the guitar. He got seriously hooked on jazz in earnest during the German occupation and has been influenced predominantly by Django Reinhardt, another Belgian who invented a particular way of playing the guitar, and the legendary Charlie Parker. Other influences were Toots Mondello and Toots Camarata, resulting in Jean Thielemans being nicknamed 'Toots' early on in his career.
In an interview in 1983 with a Belgian radio station, he said : “My parents had a pub and each Sunday there was an accordionist. They have told me that when I was in my cradle, I already was imitating the gestures of the musician. One of the clients said “that kid wants to play accordion”. My father bought me a little cardboard accordion, and when I was three I got this little machine. (plays a little bit, accompanied by the barking of his little dog called Duke Yorkshire Ellington Thielemans)”.
He made his big breakthrough when he went on European tour with Benny Goodman in 1950. He moved to America in 1952 (and became a US citizen the same year) where he is extremely well-known, especially among the jazz community. Quincy Jones said this about him in 1995 : “I can say without hesitation that Toots is one of the greatest musicians of our time. On his instrument he ranks with the best that jazz has ever produced. He goes for the heart and makes you cry. We have worked together more times than I can count and he always keeps me coming back for more”. Toots hates his favorite instrument, the harmonica, being called a 'miscellaneous instrument'. Indeed, the late Clifford Brown said: “Toots, the way you play the harmonica they should not call it a miscellaneous instrument”.
His successes include harmonica solo contributions to film scores for Midnight Cowboy, The Getaway, Sugarland Express, Cinderella Liberty, Turks Fruit (Turkish Fruit), Jean de Florette and others. In 1962 he had a massive hit with 'Bluesette'. He also did many concerts and recordings with legends such as George Shearing, Ella Fitzgerald, Quincy Jones, Bill Evans, Jaco Pastorius, Natalie Cole, Pat Metheny, Paul Simon and Billy Joel. Many people also will remember him from the music used for the 'Old Spice' TV commercial.
Toots succeeded in doing something that is very difficult for Jazz musicians: being well known by the general public and still practice high-class Jazz. Receiving the high appreciation of his peers and connoisseurs is no mean feat and Toots is regularly voted first in his category in the famous Down Beat Jazz Magazine in the USA by critics and public. In 1981, Toots suffered from a major stroke that left part of his body with little feeling. Today he has pretty much recovered from the stroke and admits that while he may not be able to play as many notes as he used to, he can still “play the good ones”. He has always suffered from asthma, which makes his success even more remarkable. Jean “Toots” Thielemans crossed over on August 22, 2016 in Brussels, Belgium.
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