Originally posted on January 17, 2008
The situation of jazz around 1965 was interesting. Although rock was carving ever larger portions of the musically American pie, jazz was in one of its fruitful, increasingly innovative periods. There were the mainstream cats, plenty of them, playing some of their best music, there was the progressive branch, guys like Miles Davis, some of whom would go on to fuse jazz and rock, and there was the “new thing” or “free” school—late-period Coltrane, Ayler, Cecil Taylor and such—who were playing wild music that some people found downright puzzling. Interestingly, all three branches survive into today, although most radio stations don’t play it, and a very few play some of it, in the US anyway.
The current CD on my desk is somewhere between the progressive and free schools. Recorded in 1965 for Blue Note, it is a total classic and one of my favorite recordings. It’s by vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson and it’s called Dialogue. What’s great about this one is, first of all, the contributions of each member of the group. The agile, exceptionally musical trumpet of Freddie Hubbard, the volcanic and uniquely singular Sam River on woodwinds, Bobby Hutcherson’s thoughtful vibes and marimba, the angular piano of Andrew Hill, Richard Davis’s insistently driving bass and Joe Chamber’s lithely floating drumming—these musicians make the set truly improvisatory in the best sense. They all mesh together in a single idiom, yet they are all staunchly individual in their approach. The tunes themselves are extremely interesting and make the album extraordinarily satisfying. Andrew Hill wrote a bunch of them; Joe Chambers wrote two. It is just wonderful music. And it shows a respect for the structure of a particular original song form while giving plenty of room for the soloists to express themselves. It is not a widely remembered recording, to my knowledge, but I recommend it highly to anyone who wishes to explore where things came from that are a part of the music of today.