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Bobby Hutcherson: The JazzTimes Interview

The bricklayer's son returns to Blue Note with a killer album

Joey DeFrancesco, Billy Hart, Bobby Hutcherson and David Sanborn at the SFJAZZ Center, Feb. 2014
Bobby Hutcherson (left) and drummer Billy Hart at thr SFJAZZ Center, 2014
Joey DeFrancesco, Bobby Hutcherson, David Sanborn and Billy Hart, 2014
Bobby Hutcherson 1965
Bobby Hutcherson recording for Blue Note Records, June 1965 (photo: Francis Wolff)

Onstage, Bobby Hutcherson comes across as a genial trickster with a sly sense of humor that guards an acute emotional intelligence. He’s not much different offstage, where he can fully indulge his natural gifts as a raconteur whose anecdotes often end with unanticipated punch lines. Which, come to think of it, is much like a Hutcherson solo that loops around, digresses, reveals unexpected harmonic insights and then concludes with a dramatic, resonating flourish.

Hutcherson, 73, has been slowed by emphysema in recent years and is tethered to an oxygen line. But his playing remains smart and gorgeous, if more selective, as heard during a sold-out four-night February run at the SFJAZZ Center. That stand saw the vibraphonist alongside alto saxophonist David Sanborn, organist Joey DeFrancesco and drummer Billy Hart-the same cast featured on Enjoy the View, the forthcoming Blue Note album credited to Hutcherson, Sanborn and DeFrancesco. The album, Hutcherson’s first for Blue Note since Manhattan Moods, his 1994 co-release with McCoy Tyner, is a worthy addition to his era-defining discography for the 75-year-old label: an enviable list of leader and sideman projects featuring the likes of Jackie McLean, Eric Dolphy, Grachan Moncur III, Lee Morgan, Wayne Shorter, McCoy Tyner, Grant Green, Andrew Hill and Tony Williams. Two days after the 50th anniversary of Dolphy’s epochal Out to Lunch! session, I drove from Berkeley to the house Hutcherson shares with Rosemary, his wife of 41 years, in Montara, a town on Highway 1 about 20 miles south of San Francisco with breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean.

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