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Bebop

August 28, 2019

Bobby Hutcherson and Harold Land

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IN 1975, DUTCH JAZZ CONCERT promoter Wim Wigt decided it was time to start his own record label. Wigt had built up a strong business as a concert promoter and artist manager for a large number of well-known jazz artists, becoming one of the primary jazz promoters and artist managers in Europe. Wigt organized tours and festivals throughout Europe for such artists as Art Blakey, Dizzy Gillespie, Chet Baker, Freddie Hubbard, Machito, and many other artists, who would not only tour with Wigt’s shows, but would also record for his label.

Once established, Timeless Records would sponsor an all-star group of modernists known simply as the “Timeless Allstars.” Touring throughout Europe in the early 1980s, the basic lineup would consist of vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson, tenor saxophonist Harold Land, pianist Cedar Walton, trombonist Curtis Fuller, bassist Buster Williams and drummer Billy Higgins.

Nominally led by Hutch-erson and Land, this group of veteran modernists — all of whom had recorded for the major U.S. jazz labels of the 1950s through the 1970s — recorded just a handful of albums for Timeless under the Allstar moniker, playing original compositions from each band member as well as jazz standards in the hard-bop style.

Hutcherson and Land had a long history of collaboration, having partnered for several albums on Blue Note in the late 1960s and early ‘70s, though their backgrounds were very different in terms of musical generation as well as stylistic orientation. Land was born in 1928 and first became known for his playing in the Clifford Brown/ Max Roach be-bop group in the mid 1950s, while Hutcherson was born in 1941 and made his name with the more avant-garde sounds of Eric Dolphy and Sam Rivers in the 1960s.

Bobby Hutcherson performing at the Berkeley (CA) Jazz Festival in 1982. Brian McMillen/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Bobby Hutcherson performing at the Berkeley (CA) Jazz Festival in 1982. Brian McMillen/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

As part of the ongoing series of German radio transcripts recorded at the “Onkel Po’s Carnegie Hall” nightclub in Hamburg, Jazzline Records has released a night with Hutcherson, Land and company as the Timeless Allstars At Onkel Po’s Carnegie Hall – Hamburg 1982 (Jazzline N78063). The two LP set (also available on CD) features four extended hard-bop tracks (each running approximately 20 minutes each) allowing the band members to stretch out on a set of three original compositions and one standard.

Starting off with the Buster Williams composition “Tok-udo,” trombonist Fuller sets the stage for an angular bop tune which Hutcherson then smooths out with long flowing cascades of notes, rendering the feeling as smooth as glass, before Land turns up the heat again with a blistering solo. Williams himself is content in the roll of time-keeper, supporting Hutcherson and Land impeccably throughout the song.

The single standard on the LP, Victor Young’s “My Foolish Heart,” serves as a showcase for vibraphonist Hutcherson’s skills with a ballad. Pianist Walton then picks up the pace with a fine solo that demonstrates why he was the “go-to” pianist from the 1960s through the 2000s, after which Hutcherson returns to create a dreamy, almost ethereal mood toward the end of the performance.

The Cedar Walton composition “Clockwise” again focuses on Hutcherson with the ensemble’s choruses commenting on the fine vibe work that carry the pianist’s tune to a most satisfying resolution. Again, Harold Land’s tenor work is — as always — exemplary. Land should have been a major figure in 1950s and ‘60s jazz, but family issues kept him based in Los Angeles, where touring and recording opportunities were not as plentiful as in New York, so his career did not have the chance to develop as fully as it deserved to.

Land contributes the final tune of the album, his signature composition “Mapenzi.” Not only a showcase for Land’s post-Coltrane tenor sax, trombonist Curtis Fuller contributes an excellent extended solo, while both pianist Walton as well as vibraphonist Hutcherson cook right along both in support as well as their own solos. Special mention should be made of bassist Buster Williams and drummer Billy Higgins, who form an extremely tight rhythm section throughout the
entire set.

This truly all-star group made only four LPs for the Timeless label, making the release of this set a major discovery. While the music on this album may have been made over 37 years ago, both the music and the musicians who recorded it will always remain timeless.

Armand Lewis buys and sells rare Jazz LPs. He can be reached at mrbluenote@peoplepc.com






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