One of the most admired and accomplished vibraphonists in jazz, died Monday at his home in Montara, Calif.
Bobby Hutcherson, one of the most admired and accomplished vibraphonists in jazz, died Monday at his home in Montara, Calif. He was 75.
He died after a long battle with emphysema, said Marshall Lamm, a spokesman for Mr. Hutcherson’s family.
Bobby’s career took flight in the early 1960s, as jazz was slipping free of the complex harmonic and rhythmic designs of bebop. He was fluent in that language, but he was also one of the first to adapt his instrument to a freer postbop language, often playing chords with a pair of mallets in each hand. He released more than 40 albums and appeared on many more, including some regarded as classics, like “Out to Lunch,” by the alto saxophonist, flutist and bass clarinetist Eric Dolphy, and “Mode for Joe,” by the tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson.
Both of those albums were a by-product of his close affiliation with Blue Note Records, from 1963 to 1977. He was part of a wave of young artists who defined the label’s forays into experimentalism, including the pianist Andrew Hill and the alto saxophonist Jackie McLean. But he also worked with hard-bop stalwarts like the tenor saxophonist Dexter Gordon, and he later delved into jazz-funk and Afro-Latin grooves.
Bobby, who took piano lessons as a child, often described his transition to vibraphone as the result of an epiphany: Walking past a record store one day, he heard a recording of Milt Jackson and was hooked. A friend at school, the bassist Herbie Lewis, further encouraged his interest in the vibraphone, so Mr. Hutcherson saved up and bought one. He was promptly booked for a concert with Mr. Lewis’s band.
“Well, I hit the first note,” he recalled of that performance in a 2014 interview with JazzTimes. He added, “But from the second note on, it was complete chaos. You never heard people boo and laugh like that. I was completely humiliated. But my mom was just smiling, and my father was saying, ‘See, I told you he should have been a bricklayer.’ ”
After his tenure on Blue Note, Mr. Hutcherson released albums on Columbia, Landmark and other labels, working with Mr. Tyner, the tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins and — on screen, in the 1986 Bertrand Tavernier film “Round Midnight” — with Mr. Gordon and the pianist Herbie Hancock. From 2004 to 2007, Mr. Hutcherson toured with the first edition of the SFJazz Collective, an ensemble devoted equally to jazz repertory and the creation of new music. He was named a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master in 2010.
After releasing a series of albums on the European label Kind of Blue, he returned to Blue Note in 2014 to release a soul-jazz effort, “Enjoy the View,” with collaborators including the alto saxophonist David Sanborn.
Additional reporting © The New York Times
See Bobby Hutcherson in conversation here with Jazz writer A.B. Spellman for an NEW Jazz Masters interview..