Bobby Hutcherson: Total Eclipse (1968) Blue Note/ Liberty


Selection: Total Eclipse


Harold Land (tenor sax, flute) Bobby Hutcherson (vibes) Chick Corea (piano) Reggie Johnson (bass) Joe Chambers (drums) recorded Plaza Sound Studios, NYC, July 12, 1968, recording engineer George Sawtelle, Plaza Sound Studios, N.Y.C.

While we are in obituary mode, sound engineer Sawtelle, who became vice-President of Plaza Sound Studios, passed away peacefully in 2010, at age 87.


A great contribution from Bobby’s new tenor collaboration, “The Fox”, Harold Land, and the fresh sound of Chick Corea, marks this album out from being “just another vibes outing”.

Land was a still-vigorous hard bop player who added some welcome heat to contrast with Hutcherson’s cool metallic ringing tones. Jazz writer John Fordham described Land’s tenor style as “somewhere between the muscularity and earthiness of pre-bebop blues and freewheeling swing, and the restraint and delicacy of the cool school of the mid-1950s” (Land’s obituary, 2001). Despite superficial comparisons with Coltrane, Land was very much his own voice, and his playing much admired “for its intelligence and poise“. The collaboration with Hutcherson was to span seven Blue Note releases between 1968 and 1975.

Chick Corea here was just beginning to establish himself, sitting in the piano seat shortly to be occupied by Stanley Cowell (Strata East!). Corea’s debut album,Tones for Joan’s Bones (Woody Shaw!) was recorded only two years previously, followed by a title released under Pete La Rocca’s name, Turkish Women at the Bath (later briefly reissued by Muse as Bliss under Corea’s name, until the lawyers settled in favour of La Rocca). Soon after, Chick’s electric piano arrived,  and by 1972 Return To Forever had taken off. No synthesiser noodling here, but sympathetic comping and solo, cascading notes and flourishes on a broad canvas reminiscent of McCoy Tyner with shades of Andrew Hill.

The title track opens deceptively: languid, cool, and peaceful but quickly gives way to a fast-paced exhilarating ride, with first Land at the helm. Floating figures and flourishes embellish rapid-fire runs maintaining fast forward momentum. Hutcherson maintains the pace with serpentine vibraharp invention in more linear solo patterns, xylophone mode rather than sometime sonorous colourings. Corea generates a spacious ambience, lots of air, which set me determined to get out my other early Corea acoustic piano albums and on the turntable.  (The RTF collection will have to stay in the loft!). Reggie Johnson on bass and Joe Chambers on drums make their own contribution, keep the ears alert, following everyone working together.

Each of the other tracks on Total Eclipse maintain  interest, the jaunty romp Herzog, the more conceptual Pompeian, and one track attributed to Corea, suitably enigmatic title – Matrix. (L Ron Hubbard influence?)  The album has a good amount of heart to it, and “not just another vibes outing

Vinyl: BST 84291 – Liberty Records Inc. – no Van Gelder.

Cover-lover’s Corner: what is it with that cheesy grin?  The hat and beard was to come later, but  Bobby’s transformation from “serious artist” to “cheeky boy-next-door” is complete. Clearly by 1968 “serious artists” were no longer a selling point.

Blue Note back cover address has mutated to BLUE NOTE RECORDS, INC., 729 SEVENTH AVENUE, NEW YORK CITY/ 6920 SUNSET BLVD., LOS ANGELES, CALIF.

NEWSFLASH! Good news for health-conscious vinyl collectors. Total Eclipse has recently been reissued by LJC Records with an alternative non-smoking cover, on flavoured vinyl. Seriously cool.  Available in mint chocolate chip, raspberry and vanilla. Refrigerate after playing…


Engineer’s Corner:

Stereo presentation is a huge wide-screen spread, wonderful to listen to even if you are a mono-man. The recording is bright, with full tonal range, no compression or cut-off that I can tell. Though it may not have the Van Gelder magic, it’s a good sounding record.

By 1968 the bond between Blue Note under Liberty, Van Gelder and Englewood Cliffs had clearly loosened. Total Eclipse was recorded in N.Y.C. at Plaza Sound Studios. Plaza, who, along with Reeves Sound Studios, were favoured by Riverside Records. Many  jazz recordings at Plaza  have mastering credited to Components Corporation, Denville, New Jersey, though no one is explicitly credited for this album.

At this point, I’ve run out of leads.

Where it was pressed and who mastered it remains unknown. The malformed ® and  yellowish tint of the label doesn’t match the work of Blue Note’s printers Keystone. Unlikely to be All-Disc.  A  hand-written “re” follows the catalogue number on Side 1 – re-issue? re-master? re-worked? The only clue is the tiny initials  “B.A.” in caps on Side 2. Any theories, let’s hear them, vinyl detectives.



Collector’s Corner

It has been a quiet couple of months on the vinyl collecting front: very few acquisitions, very little of interest in the shops.

I think the problem, in part, is that not enough jazz collectors are dying. Unlike jazz musicians, who seem to be dropping like flies.  We rely on collector’s kids putting dad’s collection back into circulation.  Another explanation may be that, now vinyl is in renaissance, the kids are now hanging onto dad’s collection!

Not adding yet more records to an already overflowing record shelves is probably not a bad thing. More time should be given to playing the records you have already got. That is the upside – if there is one – of the obituary-industry.

Few more Bobby Hutcherson’s to come, then, time for something completely different.

11 thoughts on “Bobby Hutcherson: Total Eclipse (1968) Blue Note/ Liberty

  1. My copy (identical label) was mastered by “AudioMatrix”, as shown in cursive in the runout. B.A. is also present – and Discogs has a reference to Bert Agudelo as the engineer who cut the lacquer.

  2. I used to have this but I don’t think I kept it. For the life of me I can’t now remember why. I probably never listened to it properly and for some reason took against it… It wouldn’t be the first time I have dumb mistakes like that. Your sample makes me want to re-investigate. Of course, my copy was only a Pathe Marconi, I imagine… Perhaps it didn’t sound very good and that’s why I ditched it?

    • I try not to get rid of anything – drives Mrs LJC mad. Just because you don’t like something now, doesn’t mean you won’t like it in the future, when your musical planet is in a different configuration.

      I dusted off Corea’s Tones for Joan’s Bones last night and gave it a spin. Marvellous, Woody Shaw too, great album I now think. My recollection was that I last played three or four years ago, didn’t like it.

      I realise not getting rid of things leads to the accusation of being a hoarder, people who have to crawl into their house via the skylight as every room is full to the ceiling. However obsessive chucker syndrome is every bit as bad. I know for a fact that anything I throw away because I have no use for it, the next day I’ll find I need it. Immutable Law of Things.

      • I admit it: I have a puritan streak which makes me think that ruthlessness about things — try it: decide: keep or dispose — is a good discipline. I think it is. But it isn’t necessarily an accurate one. Try again, fail better…

  3. This was recorded just four months after Chick Corea committed ‘Now He Sings, Now He Sobs’ to wax, and his playing is occasionally very much in that stream here. Harold Land is criminally under-rated in my opinion, his solo on this album’s title track is a fleeting thing of beauty.
    This from Wikipedia. Hardly authoritative but it may be a lead –
    “Some recuts with altered content have a suffix of “-RE” at the end of the inscribed matrix number, but this does not necessarily mean that the non-“RE” edition was issued to the public.”
    B.A. may remain forever a mystery.

    • Now He Sings, Now He Sobs — a terrific record, with the great Barry Altschul on drums. I was playing this just a few days back and realised it has become an LP I return to frequently.

      • Hi Alun, it is a fantastic album however the drummer on ‘Now He Sings, Now He Sobs’ is actually the legendary Roy Haynes. Barry Altschul first played with Chick Corea on 1970’s ‘The Song Of Singing’ and ‘Circling In’. Roy Haynes’ career has been sprinkled with stardust having played with so many of the giants on dozens of classic albums over the decades and must be considered one of the very greatest jazz-drummers of all-time. Without wanting to overstate things, of course.

        • Quite right, penny poets: I read ‘Now He Sings’ but saw ‘The Song of Singing’! In fact, I don’t know ‘Now He Sings’ at all, I don’t think — I must investigate. But I do love Barry Altschul on ‘The Song of Singing’…

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