Bobby Hutcherson, one of the most iconic vibraphonists to ever grace both sides of a record, passed away after a long battle with emphysema. His death was confirmed by Marshall Lamm — a spokesperson for the Hutcherson family.
The legendary vibraphonist helped shape the sound of an entire generation as well as stretching the boundaries of the vibraphone. The late Hutcherson appeared on over 250 Blue Note LPs as well as leading 23 of his own records including landmark albums like 1965’s Dialogue and 1966’s Stick Up. As a sideman, Hutcherson provided an added depth of color on some of the most important albums from Eric Dolphy‘s seminal Out To Lunch, Andrew Hill‘s Judgment, Joe Henderson‘s Mode For Joe, Donald Byrd‘s Ethiopian Knigths and many more. As a composer, he penned some of the most recognizable tunes in today’s canon including the often interpreted “Montara,” written for the San Mateo County coastal town where he lived.
Journalist and music critic Neil Tesser summed up Bobby Hutcherson’s influence in an essay titled, “The Electric Guitar and Vibraphone in Jazz” that appears in the Oxford Companion to Jazz stating:
“A little earlier, Walt Dickerson had attempted to translate the furious energy and angular ideas of John Colrane to the vibes, and Lem Winchester had begun to explore the shimmer, ‘space’ textures the instrument can produce. But neither of them displayed the exacting technique or emotional range of Hutcherson, who transferred [Milt Jackson]’s loquacious cool to the progressive modernisms of the 1960s.”
A founding member of the SFJAZZ Collective, Hutcherson was also named as an NEA Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts in 2010 for his contributions to artform. The jazz master continued to perform during the latter part of his career. Moments from the news of his passing, the music world expressed their condolences from Christian McBride, Bad Plus pianist and blogger Ethan Iverson to esteemed music critic and historian Ted Gioia.
I’m saddened to hear of the passing of yet another legend, the great Bobby Hutcherson. A creative force. RIP, sir. pic.twitter.com/dTX3YvMd1N
— Christian McBride (@mcbridesworld) August 16, 2016
In last decades Bobby Hutcherson was a standard bearer. At recent NEA concert stole show with breathtaking “In Yr Own Sweet Way” w Barron
— Ethan Iverson (@ethan_iverson) August 16, 2016
R.I.P. jazz vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson (1941-2016), a music master and a beautiful human being. https://t.co/YaMz7wYwxp
— Ted Gioia (@tedgioia) August 16, 2016
“I think the most important thing I can offer up to young musicians is that once you get up on the bandstand, understand that you’re asking for a prayer to go through you,” explained Hutcherson during an interview with the National Endowment for the Arts. “When you think about music, it’s got to be that way. Just the thrill of being to play another note. Not to win anything or get a trophy. That way you can stay humble. When I was younger I thought music came first. Now that I’ve gotten older I realize it’s only a reflection of the images of the people I love and being with God. Music is [a] complete circle, but even more a complete world.”