Bobby Hutcherson: Dialogue (1965) Liberty UA Blue Note (Update: polls added)

An LJC reader challenged me on why I hadn’t posted any titles by Bobby Hutcherson? Once again, I found myself short of an answer.

To put that right, we kick off with what I consider Hutcherson’s sine qua non Blue Note Dialogue, of which Allmusic say:

“Dialogue remains Hutcherson’s most adventurous, “outside” album. While there are more extensive showcases for (Hutcherson’s) playing, this high-calibre session stands as arguably his greatest musical achievement”

Bobby-Huthcherson-Dialogue-frontcover-1800-LJC Selection 1: Catta ( Andrew Hill)

A quirky Andrew Hill latin composition, a mambo in 8/8 time. That’s adventurous. Nice.

Selection 2: Idle While (Joe Chambers)

Hubbard’s trumpet will melt your heart, believe it.


Freddie Hubbard (trumpet) Sam Rivers (tenor,soprano saxophone, bass clarinet, flute) Bobby Hutcherson (vibraphone, marimba) Andrew Hill (piano) Richard Davis (bass) Joe Chambers (drums) Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, April 3, 1965


Though they have their fans, two ’50s/’60s artists in my view were over-recorded and have not worn well: Jimmy Smith and  MJQ, judging by their prolific output in the record store  bargain bins. MJQ defined cool chamber jazz, and Milt Jackson’s vibraphone was an essential component of that sound. It is hard to hear the vibraphone and not think “MJQ”, but Hutcherson manages to pull off something different.

The saxophone and trumpet are an extension of breath, properly, a voice: Miles, Coltrane, Rollins, Mobley, McLean, the range of voices is infinitely variable.  The vibraphone offers  more limited musical contribution, part percussive part harmonic, a more restricted range of expression.  It had among its leading lights Lionel Hampton, Milt Jackson, Red Norvo, Bobby Hutcherson, Gary Burton, Cal Tjader and Roy Ayers, but Bobby Hutcherson is the only one that appears significantly in my collection.

Vibes are mellow and cool, which is why Hutcherson’s masterstroke was putting a first division front line together, ensuring this was not just a “vibraphone album”. Rather, Hutcherson is often low key, adding colourings while his other artists take the lead. Andrew Hill and Sam Rivers, sprinkling salt and pepper on what could be overexposure of the ringing tones of the vibraphone.

Hutcherson was the in-demand vibes player of his day, and enjoyed a long run though the late ’60s and the Blue Note move to the West Coast. He teamed up with my favourite West Coast tenor, Harold Land, and left a good number of excellent albums in the mid to  trailing end of the ’60s including Happenings, Components, Cirrus, Head On, to name but a few. You will be hearing more of him, no more excuses.

Vinyl: BST 84198 Liberty UA early ’70s pressing, VG stamp.

I’m not proud, I own up, it’s an Liberty UA copy, bought at a time when I was just starting out. It still sounds damn fine to me, and may be one day will be complemented with an original mono, but I am very happy listening to the exquisite Van Gelder recording of this session. The sextet line up is so good, this is one record I figure benefits from RVG’s later more refined approach to stereo.

The Black and Blue Liberty/ UA pressings are good vintage pressings, and nothing to be ashamed of. The cover, in contrast, exhibits a good specimen of ring-wear, and why you should keep records outside the jacket in their own sleeve within a 400gm poly liner. Bobby-Huthcherson-Dialogue-labels-1800-LJC Bobby-Huthcherson-Dialogue-back-1800-LJC Collector’s Corner

This Hutcherson title was sourced from a west London record store five years ago. I had all but forgotten about it, neglected on the shelf. It’s a fact of life that listening over time changes your musical perception.  Listening  to Andrew Hill, Freddie Hubbard and Sam Rivers in recent years has sharpened my appreciation of their contributions, so I revisited Dialogue with new ears. To be honest I don’t think I had listened to enough to appreciate it first time around. The benefit of a reader’s challenge (hat tip Martin) was a reminder of how good a Blue Note session Dialogue was.  Thanks for that.

It is also a pleasant break from researching record labels, which I will pick up on after a break. It can be quite wearying working your way through small blurred pictures of records taken in tilted perspective, missing label-shots, and inadequately described. God bless those sellers who do a good job, and those obsessives who upload good stuff including labels to Discogs, for all its limitations, a great resource. Guide to Atlantic Stereo is coming on a pace.

LJC POLLS: likes and dislikes  in jazz instruments

Lets ignore soprano and baritone sax, for another day.

Poll 1: How do you feel about the Vibraphone/Vibraharp as a jazz instrument?


Poll 2: How do you feel about the following instruments in Modern Jazz?




Comments: any other “pet hates”? Speak up!




62 thoughts on “Bobby Hutcherson: Dialogue (1965) Liberty UA Blue Note (Update: polls added)

  1. Dolphy’s “Out To Lunch” would be a very different beast without Hutcherson’s floating vibes, you can add McLean’s “Destination Out!” And “One Step Beyond” and Grachan Moncur III “Evolution” to the list. Hutcherson’s own Blue Note albums are essential. “Happenings”, “Spiral”, “Medina”, “Stick Up” and “The Kicker” are among my favorites. His 1970 release “San Fransisco” with Harold Land is very cool.

    Roland Kirk is the jazz flute master. Check out “I Talk With The Spirits”. He is peerless. Yusef Lateef was also great.

    I notice not many (if any) mentions of the mighty Hammond B3 work of Dr. Lonnie Smith. His Blue Note albums, while more soul funk than jazz, are still very ace, especially his live albums “Move Your Hand” and “Live at Club Mozambique” and the studio album “Drives”. He is still releasing new music and playing live. He is way more vital than Jimmy Smith.


  2. Though Hutcherson is best heard on Blue Note, I think it is worthwhile listening to some of his early recordings when he was just twenty years old but already an accomplished vibe player. I like his contributions to Ron Jefferson’s “Love Lifted Me”, Pacific Jazz PJ-0036.


  3. Hello LJC
    Just noticed this posting on Bobby Hutcherson, a player I have followed since Dialogue, Judgement and Out to Lunch.
    He only rarely revisited his performance choices on those records on for example, Components and Shepp’s On this Night. He seems to have regressed over the years into a modal and be-bop virtuoso.
    Nobody has mentioned ‘Live at Montreux’ from around ’74 with Woody Shaw. Fantastic, long fluent vibe solos which never flag. Another one I have loved is Acoustic Masters 2 on Atlantic.
    It’s only on CD, but you can wear gloves.
    Lem Winchester had much promise. He had had a day job as a policeman, but sadly he arrested a speeding bullet at 32 yrs. Try ‘Winchester Special’ on Prestige.
    Regarding bowed bass; what about Richard Davis on his Muse LP’s and Slam Stewart will make us smile.
    Thanks for an absorbing site.


  4. Organ. It’s a love/hate relationship for me. There are days that I can’t get enough of it, then there are days that I just can’t stand it, it’s weird. Anyway, the grandmasters for me are Larry Young, Jimmy Smith, Baby Face Willette, Big John Patton, Johnny “Hammond” Smith. Most of them also recorded very funky albums that still work well when you’re the DJ 😉

    Flute. I like it a lot. Just listen to what James Spaulding does on Freddie Hubbard’s ‘Hub Tones’ album; it’s mesmerizing. I like flute the most in seventies funk recordings though, probably because I grew up in the seventies – an era that in my opinion was dominated by Fender Rhodes and, yes, flute. It’s an instrument that, for instance, sets the tone (Hubert Laws) on Herbie Hancock’s ‘The Prisoner’ and dozens and dozens of other albums by other artists. Also found a great Jeremy Steig album on CTI the other day for a song 🙂

    Vibes: same as with Organ. Milt Jackson’s BLP-1509 is a ‘desert island disc’ for me, simply because of its overall ‘old’ sound; music that was there when my grandparents were in their thirties.


  5. Jazz violin – don’t know why but I can’t get into it. I’ll probably hear something one day and it’ll just click with me.


  6. Virtually no vibraphobics out there! Well done, guys, and thank you LJC. Among critics, the only one I am aware of at the moment was Francis Newton (= historian Eric Hobsbawm, 1917-2012), who, in his otherwise brilliant book “The Jazz Scene” (MacGibbon and Kee, 1959) writes this about the instrument:

    “The vibraphone (a set of electrified tubular bells [wrong!]) has established itself in the place of the earlier xylophone, and to some extent of the guitar, chiefly due to the dazzling talent of a few players who, for unaccountable reasons, like this sugary instrument (…)”

    He is right, however, about (pre-Jimmy-Smith) organ, although, by 1959, there might have been a little more to be said:

    “The organ has been used by some, notably Fats Waller, but even in his hands produces the same sort of impression as a man trying to write with a shaving brush.”

    The vibraphone’s remote cousin, celesta, is something that – in a jazz context – never fails to turn me off. That’s why I always skip “Pannonica” on Monk’s “Brilliant Corners”. Someone should have told Monk to leave that blasted thing untouched.


    • Skip Pannonica? I think some attitude adjustment is in order. Monk plays it with no sign of treacle. It’s dream-child like, just up Monk’s corner. Try some Goatee stroking and approach anew!


  7. Flute: just discovered (and ordered): John Coltrane, Offering, live at Temple University, two LP, limited edition (2000 only), Audiophile 180-gram vinyl pressed on 12″ LP’s at 33 1/3 RPM by Record Technology Incorporated (R.T.I.).
    • Hand-numbered gatefold by Stoughton Press.
    • Vibrant four panel insert with liner notes by Ashley Kahn.
    • Special collector postcards with photos by Frank Kofsky.
    • Mastered by Bernie Grundman.
    if I’m not wrong it’s the only other flute playing by Trane after Expression.
    a must for Coltanologists like me.
    also available on the evil silver disk…


    • i listened to it in 320kbps, but i refuse to pay the $50 asking price the vinyl. that’s a tremendous rip-off for a new pressing if you ask me.

      it is quite a nice recording. crazy, to be sure. let us know how you like it!


      • Received the ESD as a (very kind) gift. Your enjoyment of it will track directly to your tolerance of late-period Coltrane. My tolerance is very low, so therefore was my enjoyment of the disc. However, Coltrane is in powerful form!


      • It is unclear whether the LP set was mastered directly from tape or from the digital transfer. Inquiry to Resonance Records went unanswered.


        • arrived yesterday: high resolution transfer from the original master tapes.
          sound restoration & mastering by Fran Gala & George Klabin at Resonance Records studios, Beverly Hills.
          for discriminate Coltranologysts only.
          in brief: sound far from HI END, concert totally different from all other known live recordings, half Free, half mainstream.
          for me, Trane’s is the voice of God.


          • It is always good to hear that another enthusiast has managed to obtain a recording that they will enjoy. Happy listening and thanks for all your valuable research around first pressings.


  8. Like Vibes a lot. Milt Jackson is the king of vibes IMO. An overlooked player is Johnny Lytle – he made some very hard hittin’ & swingin recordings for the label Tuba. One o the best was also Cal Tjader on Fantasy and Verve and he also made some A+ recordings for Concorde.


  9. For the “other” instruments, it all depends on who is playing. For example, Roland Kirk on flute is like listening to God, while Herbie Mann on flute is like listening to Ron Burgundy.


  10. Not precisely sure why, but flute, bowed/arco bass and vibraphone have always been a struggle for me in jazz. To varying degrees I have overcome this natural prejudice but these instruments (playing style, in the case of the bass) almost always grab my attention but not in a good way, if you see what I’m saying. I will generalize and state vibraphone is the least, ah, offensive to me in this regard and “Dialogue” is amongst my collection (if not frequently played – may give it a spin having read this column/comments). Bowing the bass is the worst, IMO, almost always grinding the piece to a halt – usually a most unwelcome interruption.


    • I fully understand your dislike of arco bass, even if it’s Paul Chambers doing the sawing job. No objection against flute – I rather like it when it’s played by people like Eric Dolphy or Jeremy Steig. Anyway, a dislike of the flute doesn’t seem absurd to me. But I don’t see why some people seem to hate the vibraphone.

      LJC – how about having a poll on vibraphobia?


        • Actually a little surprised that only 1 in 4 tend to dislike or strongly dislike arco-bass. What makes the world go ’round, I suppose…


          • I find that a lot of cats around here are pretty laid back. Me? I’m picky, and I’m definitely not afraid to speak up about something I’m not into, whether I think I have what might be thought of as a good reason for it or not.

            I have a friend who is the most laid back person I know and when it comes to music he pretty much likes everything. He never has a bad thing to say about anything he listens to (unless he’s pressed to make a critique), and he always seems to find something good in everything. I’m pretty particular in comparison, especially when it comes to hip hop, which is the genre I know best. But even with jazz where I’m not nearly as critical because I always feel like I have something to learn and I feel like there are fans and musicians whose understanding of the music is light years beyond mine, I’ll still be up front if something doesn’t appeal to me in jazz. For example, not into Bill Evans. Maybe if I understood jazz theory better I would appreciate his musical ideas more, but as far as mood goes I will always prefer more driving, heavier stuff.


            • I am not into solo piano – be it Bill Evans, Art Tatum, Oscar Peterson, or Keith Jarrett. Yes, I said Keith Jarrett. I like jazz best when it clicks as a group effort. (…start Wynton Kelly solo on “Freddie Freeloader”…) – – – A piano soloist (or, for that matter, any musician playing unaccompanied – just take the old church organ player) can, in principle, play whatever he wants to play as long as he wants to play. I am intentionally simplifying things now (and facing immediate bashing), but that’s the impression I often get. I more or less like all the above pianists, but I like them best in trio or other group settings. Art Tatum with Ben Webster – great! Bill Evans with Miles – greater still! And so on & so forth. It’s the restriction imposed by a group setting that often brings out the best in a musician. It also brings out the worst (I own quite a number of star-studded JATP sessions that I have never really listened to).


        • Harpsichord is an acquired taste, that’s for sure, although I love it in the right place (baroque music). Oddly, it wasn’t until playing the Andrew Hill Mosaic set recently for the first time in years that I realised that on some of the tracks that come from the same session that furnished CHANGES with Sam River, Hill insists on noodling away on harpsichord behind the bass solos.

          I have rarely heard anything so misguided — it made me realise that even our heroes can make the strangest decisions (although I resist concluding that Hill had clay feet).

          I think the harpsichord question helps illuminate some of the objections to vibes, bowed bass, organ etc: some sounds do not date well, and when used in jazz they give the music a time-locked aspect. Harpsichord was briefly fashionable in jazz in the later 1960s. It appears on some Michael Garrick records, I seem to recall. I avoid them like the plague.

          Oddly enough I have just realised that I feel the same about harpsichord as I do about anything that smacks of the wilfully “way out” — embarrassed! That goes for voices too — especially choirs in jazz. One damn voice is bad enough.


          • LOL!!! (For those who didn’t read your other comment on voice in jazz, here’s some more:)


            To me, the vibraphone is not a good example of sounds that do not age well. It had been part of jazz for four decades when Hutcherson first appeared in public, and was played by some of the most remarkable musicians within the time period covered by LJC’s blog (Milt Jackson, Teddy Charles, Eddie Costa, Vic Feldman, Walt Dickerson, and Hutcherson himself). I think anyone who now feels that vibes sound dated on sixties’ recordings wouldn’t have appreciated the sound back then either.

            On a different note, and not in response to your post, I would like to add that Milt Jackson should not be exclusively associated with the MJQ. He was one of the truly great improvisers in jazz, on a par with Armstrong, Parker, and Coltrane, and would everybody please listen to the music he played outside that group.


  11. Well, as the reader who issued the challenge to LJC in the first place, I feel it would be remiss not to comment. First, thanks for responding so quickly. I own a fair few BH originals but Dialogue remains on my “wants” list.

    For me BH is the pre-eminent vibes player and I think a big part of that is due to what you identify – he seems to be able to break away from that cool, impersonal, metallic sound that puts may people off the vibes. On many performances, his sound seems to shimmer and hang in the air. He also frequently switches to other instruments – there are plenty of examples of BH using the marimba to get a more woody, organic and slightly mysterious tone and I’ve just acquired one LP (“Total Eclipse”) where he even solos using bells.

    Almost without exception, BH’s run of Blue Note LPs from Dialogue right through to San Francisco is of uniformly high quality (including those not issued at the time like “Oblique” and “Sprial”). And another LP that’s on my “wants” list but I know a little from re-issues is Harold Land’s “The Peace Maker” on Cadet. Effectively another LP by the Land/Hutcherson axis but released under the former’s name.


  12. I keep trying to imagine what Milt’s solo on “Idle While” would have been like. Longer more complete ( joined up ) melodic lines perhaps? To me it sounds like Hutch almost soars but not quite. “Catta” however works just fine – this track sounds like something special right from the off. I originally purchased “Dialogue” as an ESD just to get some more Sam Rivers from his BN years into my record collection.


  13. Joe Henderson’s track ‘Mode For Joe’ is a masterpiece, with Bobby Hutcherson’s vibes solo as its defining cornerstone (I first heard it on one of Gilles Peterson’s shows many years ago- thanks Gilles).
    However, much of BH’s other work, and certainly the recordings I bought, sometimes unheard on the off chance of hearing something as amazing, have disappointed me. Earlier this year I reviewed BH’s ‘Happenings’ and attempted to measure whether it could hold my attention as I sat in Good Friday traffic jam on the M6. The result was a boring mid-table score draw. My thoughts are at
    I’ve heard positive things about ‘The Kicker’ and will investigate in due course. I really want to be blown away by BH but I suspect the cool metallic timbre of the vibes may defeat me (in addition to Dialogue and Happenings I’ve also felt disappointed by Stick Up (although that’s probably my favourite set with BH as leader).


  14. I had my first encounter with Bobby Hutcherson back in 1968 when I bought my first Jazz records: I still listen and love it: Impulse A 94, New Thing at Newport. his work as Shepp’s sideman is hypnotically perfect, original and worth listening for the ones who don’t know this record yet.
    Le Matin des Noires is really astonishing: after a repeated 4 notes line, Shepp’s erosive tenor enters like an opening door.


    • God, yes, I’d forgotten that! It is a shame that that set wasn’t better recorded — I seem to recall significant distortion and poor registration of Barre Phillips’ bass. Or maybe that was down to the cheap late-70s/early-80s Impulse repress I had (as part of a bargain two-fee, the title of which now escapes me).


    • Yup, “New Thing at Newport” was my first intro to Bobby Hutcherson too, and soon after I heard “Out to Lunch.” These two are still among my favorites. Jackie McLean’s “Destination: Out” has a similar mysterious angular feel thanks in large part to Hutcherson’s comping and solos. And while I like BH best in these types of modal / outside settings, the late (last?) one on Blue Note (Liberty labels) “Stick-Up” is a terrific effort, excellent sonically, and includes Joe Henderson, and McCoy Tyner and Billy Higgins. I am surprised it is not getting more mention in this thread.


  15. Great choice, LJC. To be paired with Andrew Hill’s JUDGEMENT. I think that perhaps what marks Hutcherson out from other vibists of the period is that he isn’t primarily a swing player. In fact, I’m tempted to say that Hutcherson is to vibes as Hill is to piano — off-kilter, oblique, determined to avoid cliche. And perhaps the other thing is his tone — muted bells, woody resonances (probably marimbas), wayward dissonances…. There’s a lot to love.


    • One interesting fact is that Bobby H has tended to play far more “conventionally” in recent decades, especially in live situations. But this is indeed a great choice. I don’t share LJC’s reservation against the instrument as such. Just take Milt Jackson on Prestige 7003, with Horace Silver, Percy Heath and Connie Kaye. Lovely! Without any horns even.


  16. I discovered Bobby Hutcherson 3 ou 4 years ago with this album.

    I am not a big fan of vibraphone. I am those part of jazz fans who do not have really interest for MJQ as you said.
    But you’re right. Bobby Hutcherson has a special thing !

    I like to listen to “Dialogue” regularly. My favorite song is the bluesy last one : Ghetto Lights. What a beautiful piece. Hubbard’s solo is delightful and Hutcherson’s one is for me what vibraphone can bring better. Lightness and expressive power !

    The album “Components” is also made on the same pattern. More complex perhaps.

    My first version of “Dialogue” was a 304 Park avenue that I bought in a parisian record shop where an enthousiastic seller wanted to spread the good word of Blue Note Avant Garde period, but recently I found a Liberty Mono first press. It was a complete rediscovery !


    • But of course, GtF –

      not to mention his sublime solo on Grant Green’s Idle Moments:

      I am not disputing he is a great player. My point about “Dialogue” is Hutcherson as leader wisely avoids offering us 40 minutes of him soloing. (Would that Jimmy Smith had) His other Blue Notes like “Components” and “Happenings” have perhaps a more dominant vibraphone presence, but also maintain interest and texture by inclusion of other strong front line artists.

      BH, he good man.


      • LJC, I may be wrong – but haven’t you mentioned the vibraphone in one and the same sentence with the organ before? You are probably right about some of Jimmy Smith’s Blue Note recordings. But there are quite a few outstanding tracks he did with Oliver Nelson’s orchestra on Verve, where the arrangement matters as much as the soloing – the trouble is that most of those albums contain lots of trashy material besides some (IMHO) really, really great stuff. Recorded by RVG.


      • ahhh i never do remember. you’ve covered so much ground. i’m with you on vibes, btw. i do not much care for lots of vibes all spaced out. piano trios sometimes have the same effect on me, but there are exceptions (money jungle, valdo williams, etc.)

        organ… i adore shirley scott. jimmy i do not know very well. will explore when a fair-priced blue note comes up, so probably never.

        in any case, glad you’ve heard and enjoyed. some interesting vibe work on archie sheep’s side of “new thing at newport” and on don cherry’s “symphony for improvisers” as well, btw.


      • This is a phenomenal album. But his contribution to Out To Lunch kills anyone on vibes that I have heard. My second choice is are the vibes on Cecil Taylor’s Looking Ahead ( Earl Griffiths on ‘Vibra Harp’ – never saw him again, must be my ignorance). I love that album so much that compulsively keep buying it. Must have 5 versions by now. Sadly unaffordable in the case of Dialogue. And at least the early Contemporaries also had UK pressings (which I generally prefer for 50’s LPs).


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