Bobby Hutcherson, long regarded as one of the foremost jazz vibraphonists in the world, has usually been compared to Milt Jackson. That’s not totally fair –Hutcherson has travelled a more adventurous path than his mentor, spending time exploring experimental styles with Eric Dolphy, Andrew Hill, and McCoy Tyner. In recent years, though, he has largely returned to his bebop roots.
Somewhere In The Night was recorded live in 2009 with the Joey DeFrancesco Trio in New York’s at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola's in Jazz at Lincoln Center. Besides DeFrancesco on the Hammond B3 organ, the trio features Peter Bernstein on guitar and Byron Landham on drums. Hutcherson first recorded with DeFrancesco on the organist’s CD Organic Vibes.
The repertoire of Somewhere In the Night combines Hutcherson originals, jazz standards, and show tunes. The CD opens with “Teddy," an up-tempo, post-bop number written for Hutcherson's youngest son. “Little B's Poem," a jazz waltz that’s Hutcherson’s most famous composition (also written for one of his sons) follows. Hutcherson shows his Milt Jackson influence in his long, fluid lines and use of space on the latter’s blues number “SKJ." This is followed by a more up-tempo blues, Duke Ellington’s “Take the Coltrane," on which Landham supplies an extended solo. DeFrancesco’s chops are showcased on John Coltrane’s samba-influenced “Wise One."
The title tune, by Billy May, was used as the theme song for the old TV show Naked City (not the song that was a hit for Helen Reddy and Barry Manilow). Hutcherson’s version highlights DeFrancesco’s walking bass line. The combo’s more mellow side is shown on Victor Young’s “My Foolish Heart” and the set closes out with a lively version of Gershwin’s “S'Wonderful."
Hutcherson is, of course, a master. While the Milt Jackson influence is evident, his improvisational vocabulary is more expansive than his teacher’s. DeFrancesco shows a nimble soloing style while comping seamlessly and supplying expert bass line support. Bernstein shows a tasteful Kenny Burrell influence in his clean lines and melodic movements, while Landham provides a solid rhythmic foundation.
Somewhere In The Night displays the energy of a live band without sacrificing recording quality. It records a straightforward mainstream jazz set with players at the top of their game. It isn’t a particularly adventurous CD, but it features a first-class ensemble doing what they do best.