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Bobby Hutcherson: For Sentimental Reasons

As we age, the lure of the pretty gets tough to resist. As the title of his new album plainly states, 66-year-old vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson isn’t immune to the call of the heart. A quartet project featuring pianist Renee Rosnes as the leader’s principal foil, “For Sentimental Reasons” may not restrict itself solely to romantic ballads, but no performance dares expand beyond a mild mid-tempo. The atmosphere remains lush with lyricism and mainstream pleasures-“Components” this isn’t.

Yet anyone expecting the virtuosic vibes player to still be the daring experimentalist of the Blue Note era hasn’t been following his post-’70s career. “For Sentimental Reasons” reflects a kinder and gentler Hutcherson, one, who in a sense, has embraced his earliest roots as a fluent, convention-based bebop stylist.

The most vivid ballad performances-“Somewhere,” “Spring Is Here,” “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life,” and the moving solo vibraphone reading of “I’ll Be Seeing You”– exhibit Hutcherson and Rosnes at their most empathetic and reflective, if a tad too controlled. The springier numbers, including a romp on Fats Waller’s “Jitterbug Waltz,” “Don’t Blame Me” (taken at an uncharacteristically brisk pace) and Benny Golson’s “Along Came Betty,” provide needed bounce. Bassist Dwayne Burno and drummer Al Foster remain in professional mode throughout, fully ready to provide unimpeachable rhythmic support if little more.

In all, it’s as pleasant, and undemanding, a recital as Hutcherson may have wished for. Hopefully though this still vital improviser hasn’t completely lost his taste for red meat altogether.

Originally Published