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Oblique (1967)

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Joe Chambers

Bobby Hutcherson's second quartet session, Oblique, shares both pianist Herbie Hancock and drummer Joe Chambers with his first, Happenings (bassist Albert Stinson is a newcomer). However, the approach is somewhat different this time around. For starters, there's less emphasis on Hutcherson originals; he contributes only three of the six pieces, with one from Hancock and two from the typically free-thinking Chambers. And compared to the relatively simple compositions and reflective soloing on Happenings, Oblique is often more complex in its post-bop style and more emotionally direct (despite what the title may suggest). The latter is especially true on the two opening Hutcherson pieces, the sweetly lilting "'Til Then" and the innocent, childlike theme of "My Joy," which is reminiscent of "Little B's Poem" (save for its multi-sectioned structure). Meanwhile, Chambers' experiments with counterpoint in the context of group improvisation keep getting more evocative. The title cut is quick and driving, with lots of short, fleeting exchanges between Hutcherson and a surprisingly swinging Hancock; "Bi-Sectional" makes playful use of chromaticism in its first part, after which Hutcherson and Chambers switch between several different percussion instruments for what amounts to an artillery attack. As for the other pieces, Hutcherson's "Subtle Neptune" fuses post-bop with Brazilian rhythms, and Hancock's "Theme From 'Blow Up'" is a spare modal melody over a repeated chordal vamp, somewhat reminiscent of his classic "Maiden Voyage." All the performances are spirited enough to make the sophisticated music sound winning and accessible as well, which means that Oblique is one of the better entries in Hutcherson's Blue Note discography and one worth tracking down. ~ Steve Huey