Bobby Hutcherson, Enjoy the View

Britt Robson

By Britt Robson

on 06.24.14 in Reviews

Enjoy The View

Bobby Hutcherson

Alcohol analogies pair nicely with a vintage bop master like vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson. At 73, you could say the one-time renegade on the mallets has mellowed like fine wine, but perhaps it is more accurate to say that he has aged like single-malt Scotch — with a little tang and smoke lingering at the finish of his notes, a sign of pure ingredients and natural seasoning.

On Enjoy the View, Hutcherson is back at Blue Note 37 years after he recorded more than 20 albums for the label between 1965-77. Unlike Wayne Shorter’s triumphant Blue Note return on last year’s Without a Net, however, Hutcherson is less conquering hero than key character actor in the proceedings, which were organized by Blue Note President (and Enjoy the View producer) Don Was and organist Joey DeFrancesco.

Surrounding Hutcherson and DeFrancesco with saxophonist David Sanborn and drummer Billy Hart creates a uniquely-instrumented quartet that generates a toe-tapping groove. Fortunately, Enjoy the View is more than that. Sanborn once again proves that he can be pushed to be more than merely suave and funky in the right setting, and his opening tune, “Delia,” has a potent, wistful aura that sets a serious tone at the outset. Along with his typically prancing funk and sly tunesmithing, as on “Don Is” (and obvious tribute to Was), DeFrancesco meshes well with Hutcherson and contributes the most complex original on the closer, “You.”

But the linchpin of the session is Hart. The drummer came up with influential B-3 organist Jimmy Smith some 50 years ago and also learned how to float like a butterfly and sting like a bee via his dynamic work in Herbie Hancock’s unsung electric, pre-Headhunters band of the early ’70s. His dynamic shifts in timbre, tempo and volume keep the creativity quotient high without abandoning the groove. His work alone is worth the price of admission.

As for the “leader,” his vibes sneak up on you and envelop like a hug, alternately warm and fervent. He pulls “Hey Harold,” a 17-minute outtake from the 1971 album Head On, out of his catalog and helps fashion it into a Weather Report-like cooker, with DeFranceso adding some Milesian Bitches Brew on trumpet. Hutcherson’s Montara, the title track for his most Latin-oriented Blue Note disc in the ’70s, here opens with a gorgeous unison passage from vibes, organ and sax, a beguiling harmony. And on “Teddy,” he lets the mallets fly for a seemingly effortless, single-malted rhythm, straight up, no chaser.