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Head On (1971)


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Harold Land

Featuring the work of obscure composer/pianist Todd Cochrane, vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson's 1971 album Head On is a highly cerebral and atmospheric affair that is somewhat different than his other equally experimental '70s work. Although the album does feature more of the avant-garde jazz that Hutcherson was exploring during this period, Cochrane's material is heavily influenced by contemporary classical music, and accordingly Head On is more of an exercise in reflective, layered jazz than rambunctious freebop -- though it does offer some of that, too. Suitably, Hutcherson brought together a large ensemble that featured a bevy of journeyman jazz artists, including the vastly underappreciated trumpeter/flügelhornist Oscar Brashear, saxophonist Harold Land, electric pianist William Henderson, drummer Stix Hooper, and bassist Reggie Johnson, among many others. Beginning with Cochrane's three-part suite "At the Source," Head On moves from similar Stravinsky-esque ensemble pieces to the "West Coast cool meets free jazz" big-band sounds of tracks like Hutcherson's "Mtume." In that sense, the album is reminiscent of work by such similar-minded artists of the period as Detroit trumpeter Marcus Belgrave (Gemini II) and his Motown Tribe contemporary Phil Ranelin (Vibes from the Tribe). Fans of expansive, searching '70s jazz will definitely want to seek Head On out. ~ Matt Collar