Selection: Rosewood (Woody Shaw)
Woody Shaw (trumpet) Emanuel Boyd, Harold Land (tenor sax, flute) Bobby Hutcherson (vibes, marimba) William Henderson (piano, electric piano) Ray Drummond (bass) Larry Hancock (drums) Kenneth Nash (percussion) recorded at Wally Heider Recording Studio III, Los Angeles, CA, April 17, 1974
Hutcherson in the ’70s
Hutcherson had a long run of titles though the ’70s, not all of the stature of his ’60s Blue Note sessions, but some interesting work among them. I have just four of these twelve titles, including one that received All-Music’s all-time lowest number of stars, Natural Illusions: a strange piece with Hollywood strings, a surreal “disembodied floating face and caught red-handed” cover.
Of the rest, Head On, the Montreux set and Cirrus are on the shelf, and valued as much for the presence of Harold Land and Woody Shaw (Montreux) as for Hutcherson’s contribution. Though I may be missing out, the others do not feel musically compelling. The covers do Hutcherson fans no favours: ask your record store for a plain brown paper wrapper.
By 1974 Hutcherson had reached peak beard, and dipping into his wardrobe of hats, pulled a giant selfie for the cover of Cirrus: a manic look that might double up as a bird-scarer, on a stick in a field. The art direction behind many of these covers is authentic ” ’70s-naff”. Among them, only Inner Glow stands out in contrast, with some authority.
Feeling lazy, I’ll steal a review of Cirrus from the trusty Dusty Groove:
Righteous Bobby Hutcherson from the 70s – one of his last albums recorded in the company of reedman Harold Land – and one of his greatest too! There’s a wonderful mix of modes going on here – modal jazz meets California sun, blending a sense of spiritualism with some of the warmth that Hutcherson was increasingly discovering in his music – especially on the album’s use of marimbas, which are surprisingly great next to Bobby’s vibes!
In addition to work from Land on tenor and flute, the set also has the great Woody Shaw on trumpet – plus Bill Henderson on Fender Rhodes, Emanuel Boyd on tenor, Ray Drummond on bass, Larry Hancock on drums, and Kenneth Nash on percussion – a rhythm player who really helps give the record some hip Strata East-like touches. Titles include a sublime reading of Shaw’s “Rosewood”
On that at least we agree, Shaw’s butter-melting tone is indeed sublime, but he gets no solo space in his own composition, a light, jaunty west-coast fusion freewheeling swinger that underlines the direction of Hutcherson’s music in the coming years. Producer, one George Butler.
Produced by George Butler, a name I recall seeing in the fusion years of my relative youth. Butler’s wiki picks up the story of “where Blue Note got lost”
Butler was responsible for Blue Note from 1972, charged with increasing interest in the jazz format with numerous jazz-soul crossover projects aimed at a more mainstream audience, including albums by Donald Byrd, Earl Klugh, Ronnie Laws and Bobbi Humphrey, as well as working with prominent jazz musicians from the 1960s, including Horace Silver and Bobby Hutcherson.
In the late 1970s, he became vice president for jazz and progressive artists and repertory at Columbia Records, staying into the mid-1990s. He helped to persuade Miles Davis to return to recording in 1980 and signed or was executive producer for fusion and soul-jazz acts, such as Bob James, Billy Cobham and Grover Washington Jr.
To be fair, I bought a lot of these albums at the time, so I guess I was part of that “mainstream audience”. David Sanborn, Spyrogyra, Lee Ritenour, George Benson, Joe Sample, Don Grusin, The Crusaders, Jeff Lorber, Yellowjackets, Chick Corea’s Elektric Band, Frank Gambale, Al diMeola, I used to think Grover Washington Jr was great, Billy Cobham and Bob James too. More “smooth/soul jazz” than “jazz rock fusion” but I went through that as well: Mahavishnu, RTF, Weather Report.
I take them out of the loft sometimes and put them on the turntable. I cringe. How did this come about? I reckon there were always records being produced, and people were consuming what the industry was producing at the time. You looked forward to the next new record from your favourite bands or artists. You were the mainstream, swimming with the tide. And you were quite happy with it. Once you step off the production / consumption conveyor belt, things rapidly go pear-shaped.
How different to now find yourself swimming against the tide. Fishing in a pool of second-hand records recorded and manufactured fifty or sixty years ago, by artists long dead and unknown to all but The Jazz Illuminati. Artists that will never make a new record. Listening to music not promoted or advertised, nor much written about by today’s mainstream. Music that would not otherwise exist, left to the mainstream, and all the more amazing that it does. Listening to music you have sought out, that is hard to find. It’s a different paradigm.
Footnote to myself: By the ’80s, different directions in electric jazz emerged which had no appeal to me at the time. Acid Jazz , Jazz Funk, Nu Jazz, Punk Jazz, Jazz Rap, No Wave, Thrashcore, M-base, virtuoso-instrumental (guitar or bass), ECM Nordic-angst, and finally Melange Jazz , Nutri-bullet Blender jazz: prog rock rap hiphop urban country dance latin metal swing jazz, of the “more ingredients is better” school.
No doubt this will include some reader favourites, so I had better shut up at this point.
At last! A pressing Plant identifier, I think. TML stamp – M, and TML stamp – S. Anyone recognise this?
News not about Bobby, but our own Tubby, Tubby Hayes.
I was delighted to learn that our great, some say greatest British tenor, Tubby Hayes, is to be honoured with a blue plaque on his former home in South West London. I reproduce biographer, tenorist and all round good jazz person, Simon Spillett’s news release here:
Little Giant Gets The Blue Plaque Treatment At Last
On Wednesday August 31st 2016, a small crowd gathered at 34 Kenwyn Road, SW20, now the home of David and Maureen, to witness Tubby’s son Richard unveil a Heritage Foundation plaque in honour of his father, who lived in the house from 1936 to 1951.