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Bobby Hutcherson: Cirrus/Inner Glow/Waiting/Knucklebean (1974)

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The triple-disc Mosaic Select Series has been, in some ways, more rewarding than even its limited-edition box set collections. While these are numbered and limited as well, they tend to shine light either on artists who have never gotten their due, or those who, while certainly respected, have an entire pocket of their careers largely ignored for one reason or another. Some of the titles in this series make that quite clear: John Patton, Curtis Amy, Charles Tolliver, and long unreleased recordings by Andrew Hill, to name a few. Bobby Hutcherson is an excellent example. While his 1960s recordings are well known, most of his mid-'70s recordings have never been available on CDs. Some of the reasons for this are obvious: Hutcherson, like many from the Blue Note stable, fell victim to some serious economic realities: jazz, like other forms of popular music but to a greater degree, was undergoing a cultural change in the '70s, both in terms of public perception and its actual creation. Fusion, funk, disco, and the new contemporary jazz of the CTI and Inner City camps were changing the scene and getting radio play, many of the titles by straight-ahead artists on labels like Blue Note saw their sales fall drastically during this period. Mosaic has made this right by releasing five of Hutcherson's fine mid-'70s recordings on this triple-disc set.

Cirrus, from 1974, and all but one cut from 1975's Inner Glow make up disc one. Cirrus marks the historic first recording of trumpeter Woody Shaw's classic composition "Rosewood," as well as "Even Later," which appeared on View from the Inside as "Later Even." Shaw, along with saxophonists Harold Land and Manny Boyd, made up the three-horn front line, bassist Ray Drummond, pianist Bill Henderson, and drummer Larry Hancock along with percussionist Kenneth Nash rounded out the lineup. Hutcherson wrote the rest of the recording and it features some wonderful playing by Land on tracks like "Zuri's Dance," and "Wrong or Right." Inner Glow was never available in the United States. The lineup still included Land and Hancock, but Shaw was gone by this time, and Oscar Brashear took over the trumpet chair while Thurman Green made the section on trombone instead of a second saxophone. Dwight Dickerson played piano and Kent Brinkley played bass. There are some fine blowing moments here, particularly in the arrangement of "Cowboy Bob," which features excellent solos from Land, Hutcherson, and Brashear. The other longish cut on this album is "Boodaa," which has an unusual, quirky stop-and-start groove that has some solid funk in its structure.

Waiting, recorded in 1976, was performed by a tough quintet; four of those members had played together for over four years and accompanied Hutcherson to Columbia after he left Blue Note. George Cables is in the piano chair with Boyd on saxophones, drummer Eddie Marshal, and James Leary on bass. Leary contributed three tunes to the session, two of which were used on the LP, the title cut and the beautiful "Don't Be Afraid (To Fall in Love Again)." The third, "Convergence," appeared on a Blue Note 40th anniversary compilation that appeared in Holland, of all places! The same band with the exception of Cables is present on View from the Inside recorded in August of 1976. Its first two tunes are on disc two, but the meat of it kicks off the final CD. Pianist Larry Nash replaces Cables on acoustic and electric piano. Leary contributes two tunes here, the wonderful "Love Can Be Many Things," and "Laugh, Laugh Again." Boyd's haunting "Song for Annie" is included, as is the standard "For Heaven's Sake." Hutcherson, who had been playing marimba and vibes, left the wood off this set. His "Same Shame," (which is a new version, as the first appeared on 1968's Total Eclipse) and "Houston St., Thursday Afternoon" are stellar contributions.

The final session here, Knucklebean, is perhaps the best known of Hutcherson's mid-'70s recordings. The band is bigger, too. Cables is back on acoustic and Rhodes piano, and Freddie Hubbard guests on trumpet with Hadley Caliman on tenor and flute to re-create the three-horn front line. The sound here is funkier, meatier, and less exploratory than on the earlier records in this set, but it also swings like mad. Marshal contributed the title cut as well as "Sundance Knows," Cables offered "Why Not," and Leary, "So Far, So Good." The interplay between Hubbard and Boyd is killer. Caliman is a more than worthy foil for both of them, and Hutcherson was digging deeply into the meatier grooves here and was opening up his sound to include a brighter feel that would come to fruition on his later Columbia recordings. Interestingly, it is Knucklebean that hipped a younger generation to Hutcherson, and it has been leading to crate digs since the early '90s; it has been sampled countless times by DJs and widely in mix sets. Many of those who were hipped to Hutcherson's vibes through this recording or his Columbia sides have gone on to collect as much of the rest of his catalog as can be found.

Thankfully, Mosaic has done its usual fine job of getting the music to the people who seek it most, and have presented it with excellent sound and packaged it with great care. Richard Seidel provides a fine set of liners for the booklet, which features original cover art for the five albums and extensive session and biographical commentary by Hutcherson. ~ Thom Jurek