The Artistry of… Bobby Hutcherson

There is no sweeter praise than that by colleagues, friends, lovers and family. Contemporary and fellow artist Sonny Rollins once said this about the late Bobby Hutcherson: “Bobby is a very honest person. He couldn’t play the way he does without that honesty. He has an innocence that’s childlike, in a way. He’s a great player and a great person, and that helps boost humanity a little bit.” Music journalist Steve Huey has described Hutcherson with words including this phrase: ”free-ringing open chords.”

Hutcherson was part of a musical momentum that brought the vibraphone into a more modern contemporary setting and place through the 1960s. An instrument that combines percussion, ringing bell-like tones, sweetness, playfulness and almost childlike expression at times, the vibraphone is instantly engaging both aurally and visually. It belies its physicality and can sing and portray emotion as deep as any voice or lyric.

Hutcherson presented all points on the spectrum of the instrument’s soundscape, and that artistry continues to influence the most dynamic vibes players to this day. An innocence that is childlike and free-ringing open chords. Play on the phrases and I hear the beauty of freedom, and the openness of sound and expression.

The Artistry of… is a weekly series that reflects on the passion and essence of an artist. It airs Wednesday evenings on Dinner Jazz with John Devenish.