Beautiful late Blue Note work from Bobby Hutcherson – laidback, warm, electric, and with a mixture of CTI funk and some of the more lyrical soul jazz work of his years with Harold Land! Part of the credit for the set should go to George Cables – who plays both acoustic and electric keys on the record, and who gives the album a sweetly dancing feel that really warms things up wonderfully – and all other players are wonderful too, including drummer Eddie Marshall, bassist James Leary, and horn players Freddie Hubbard, Hadley Caliman, and Manny Boyd. Includes a great remake of "Little B's Poem", the mellow groover "Why Not", and the cuts "Til Then", "Knucklebean", and "So Far So Good".
Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington were (and are) two of the main stems of jazz. Any way you look at it, just about everything that's ever happened in this music leads directly – or indirectly – back to them. Both men were born on the cusp of the 19th and 20th centuries, and each became established as a leader during the middle '20s. Although their paths had crossed from time to time over the years, nobody in the entertainment industry had ever managed to get Armstrong and Ellington into a recording studio to make an album together. On April 3, 1961, producer Bob Thiele achieved what should be regarded as one of his greatest accomplishments; he organized and supervised a seven-and-a-half-hour session at RCA Victor's Studio One on East 24th Street in Manhattan, using a sextet combining Duke Ellington with Louis Armstrong & His All-Stars.
None of the Band's previous work gave much of a clue about how they would sound when they released their first album in July 1968. As it was, Music from Big Pink came as a surprise. At first blush, the group seemed to affect the sound of a loose jam session, alternating emphasis on different instruments, while the lead and harmony vocals passed back and forth as if the singers were making up their blend on the spot. In retrospect, especially as the lyrics sank in, the arrangements seemed far more considered and crafted to support a group of songs that took family, faith, and rural life as their subjects and proceeded to imbue their values with uncertainty. Some songs took on the theme of declining institutions less clearly than others, but the points were made musically as much as lyrically. Tenor Richard Manuel's haunting, lonely voice gave the album much of its frightening aspect, while Rick Danko's and Levon Helm's rough-hewn styles reinforced the songs' rustic fervor.
A beautiful later Blue Note album from vibist Bobby Hutcherson – a set recorded after his famous association with Harold Land, but with a groove that's wonderfully soulful in a whole different way! Bobby plays marimbas instead of vibes this time around, and he's working with his own arrangements for a slightly larger group – one that has some sweet fusion overtones, and these wonderful mellow funk inflections – so that even the mellow cuts have this warmly glowing, ultra-soulful sound that's mighty nice – a bit like some of the work from Gene Harris around the same time.