In the 60s vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson stepped forward as the young champion of the style pioneered by Milt Jackson, the very personification of the instrument–and right on time. Gary Burton, two years Hutcherson’s junior, had already radically redefined the instrument’s role, in bands led by George Shearing and Stan Getz; rather than Jackson’s hornlike lines, he used a pianistic, pointillist approach, with two or three mallets in each hand. By contrast, Hutcherson stuck mainly to single-note lyricism–but he doubled the speed, complicated the rhythms, and extended the melodic range. At the time a member of the Blue Note stable, he played with a wide variety of labelmates, his cool-soul style turning up in everything from the dense intellectualism of Andrew Hill to the rough-and-tumble boogaloos of Lee Morgan. That style, marked by marvelous knots of rosary-bead introspection and rapid-fire three-octave runs, has remained fairly constant throughout the subsequent four decades, surviving both thin times–Hutcherson recorded only two albums under his own name in the 90s–and the former demi-radical’s maturation into a respected elder statesman. Hutcherson still surprises himself occasionally–assuming we can trust his vivid onstage reactions to gambits or denouements within his own solos–and that’s always good for the audience as well. He plays here in a quartet, supported by three redoubtable locals: pianist Willie Pickens, bassist Larry Gray, and drummer George Fludas. See also Saturday and Sunday. Fri 5/27, 9 and 11 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand, 312-670-2473, $25.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Michael Jackson.