Possibly the greatest vibraphonist of the free-jazz generation,
Los Angeles-born Bobby Hutcherson (1941), who relocated to New York in 1961,
played on Jackie McLean's One Step Beyond (1963) and Destination Out (1963), as well as
on Eric Dolphy's Conversations (1963) and Out to Lunch (1964),
before making Dialogue (april 1965), the album that set the pace for
the rest of his creative career. Hutcherson gathered a sextet featuring trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, saxophonist Sam Rivers, pianist Andrew Hill and drummer Joe Chambers to play music that straddled the border between hard-bop and free-jazz,
particularly in Chamber's ten-minute Dialogue.
The vibraphonist's split personality emerged clearly from Components (june 1965), performed by a new sextet with Hubbard, James Spaulding replacing Rivers (on alto and flute) Herbie Hancock replacing Hill (on piano and organ), Ron Carter on bass and Chambers: the album was divided between Hutcherson's lyrical compositions and Chamber's free-form pieces.
Hutcherson's compositional skills matured with the quartet experience of Happenings (february 1966), with Hancock and Chambers, that ran the whole gamut of influences from hard-bop (Bouquet) to post-bop (Aquarian Moon) to free-jazz (The Omen).
His zenith was perhaps Verse, for a quintet with tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson, pianist McCoy Tyner, bassist Herbie Lewis and drummer Billy Higgins, on Stick-Up (july 1966);
but then Oblique (july 1967), another quartet with Hancock and Chambers, ventured into Latin jazz (Subtle Neptune) and folk melody (My Joy) while relinquishing the creative leadership to Chambers (Oblique).
For a while Hutcherson was to free jazz what Lionel Hampton had been to swing or Milt Jackson to cool jazz: the vibraphone as the exotic and alien timbre of a musical revolution. Not a call to war, but the elegant dress to celebrate the triumph.
Returning to Los Angeles in 1967, Hutcherson formed a partnership with
tenor saxophonist Harold Land that initially focused on
innovative hard-bop, best represented by
Total Eclipse (july 1968), for a quintet featuring pianist Chick Corea, bassist Reggie Johnson and Chambers, that contained Hutcherson's Total Eclipse and the more abstract Pompeian,
but later converted to funk-jazz fusion with San Francisco (july 1970).
He mostly continued to play elegant but old-fashioned hard-bop.
His albums were often inconsistent.
Bobby Hutcherson died in August 2016 at the age of 75.