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Manhattan Moods (1993)

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Bobby Hutcherson

The pairing of pianist McCoy Tyner and vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson had them teamed up with firebrands of modern jazz in the '60s, but some 20 years later they made this recording in duet performance with their minds focused on the mellow side. That's not to say their progressive ideas are completely harnessed, but this recording is something lovers of dinner music or late-night romantic trysts will equally appreciate. They play a mix of standards and originals with the genius inventiveness and spontaneous interplay you would expect, while also elongating beautiful melodies that will warm any cold or bitterly emotional situation. Where Tyner's single-minded witty and improvisational extrapolations are always a part of his musical persona, Hutcherson varies the sonic imprint, playing the noble wooden marimba on several tracks, lending a more earthy, organic feeling. There's magic in the air, or at the very least a common ground of shared values that makes this combination of two great musicians turn everything golden. A take on Thelonious Monk's "Blue Monk" is a shining example of how to make a well-worn standard all your own, as the pianist imbues a pure Kansas City blues flavor into the tune, and Hutcherson's marimba leads it carefully into new, woodsy territory. Mal Waldron's "Soul Eyes" is interpreted as faithfully and profoundly as the original, but with new voicings sans a rhythm section, taking the adoring melody into deeper fathoms. Tyner's signature chord accents during "Dearly Beloved" echo the splendid title as tacked onto Hutcherson's shimmering vibes, while the pianist's penchant for modal foundations is clearly exuded on his partner's relaxed marimba-coded original "Isn't This My Sound Around Me?" and the definitive, dependable Tyner staple "Travelin' Blues." "Manhattan Moods," penned by the pianist, is solemn as can be, considering that it is dedicated to the rat race borough of New York City, while Hutcherson's other composition on the date, "Rosie," is as pleasant a waltz as you will hear short of what Randy Weston might do. These groundbreaking musicians are not rotating the Earth or signaling any new directions with this effort. They are completely in touch with their own hearts and souls, as well as those of humankind in general, on this exquisite and gorgeously crafted set of pure unadulterated jazz. ~ Michael G. Nastos