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Total Eclipse (1968)

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Joe Chambers

Total Eclipse was Bobby Hutcherson's first recording session with tenor saxophonist Harold Land, who became one of his major collaborators (and a quintet co-leader) during the late '60s. Land's rounded, echoing tone is a nice contrast for the coolly cerebral post-bop that fills Total EclipseHutcherson contributes four of the five compositions (the other, "Matrix," is by pianist Chick Corea), and he's in a mood to intellectually challenge himself and the rest of the quintet, which also includes bassist Reggie Johnson and longtime drummer Joe Chambers. The results are full of the sort of skillful musicianship one would naturally expect of Hutcherson's '60s-era Blue Notes. Land's solo lines are fluid and lengthy, assimilating some of Coltrane's innovations while remaining accessibly soulful. Though they're all pretty strong, "Pompeian" is the most ambitious piece; it opens with a happy-go-lucky, waltz-time flute melody, and after a bit of foreboding, Hutcherson expands upon it with a tinkling bell solo. Toward the end of the piece, the whole group builds to a chaotic eruption, with Hutcherson switching to marimba (as he often did when he wanted a darker tone and high-tempo articulation); the pretty flute theme is then repeated as the dust settles and the piece ends. Overall, though, the album foreshadows Hutcherson's move away from his explicit avant-garde leanings and into a still-advanced but more structured modernist framework. For some reason, Total Eclipse was the only post-bop-styled album Hutcherson and Land recorded together that was released at the time; though they're all high-quality, this remains perhaps the best of the lot.