Artist: Bobby Hutcherson.
Label and Catalogue Number: Blue Note BST 84244.
Personnel: Joe Henderson (tenor sax); Bobby Hutcherson (vibes); McCoy Tyner (piano); Herbie Lewis (bass); Billy Higgins (drums).
Side 1: Una Muy Bonita; 8/4 Beat; Summer Nights.
Side 2: Black Circle; Verse; Blues Mind Matter.
Recording Date: 14 July 1966 at the Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, USA.
On The Record
Selection: 8/4 Beat.
I returned from my August holiday to the sad news of the death of Bobby Hutcherson. It’s taken me a little while to come to terms with this loss despite it not being unexpected due to Hutcherson’s age and his health problems (he suffered from emphysema that meant he needed a supply of oxygen on hand at live performances in recent years). My immediate reaction was to think about which of Hutcherson’s many great records I most wanted to hear as my private act of remembrance. On the face of it, this was a difficult choice with so many records under Hutcherson’s own leadership supplemented by a substantial number of sideman appearances of exceptional quality. In fact, however, personal memories made the decision simple: it only took moments to be sure that Stick-Up! was the record for me.
I have a long history with this record because (alongside Components) it’s the one that first introduced me to the attractions of Hutcherson’s music. I won both these records as a brace in one of the now defunct Mole Jazz postal auctions that I sometimes mention. I can’t recall now the precise reasons that enticed me to bid for these records. I do know that I owned no Hutcherson records or CDs prior to this and had next to no idea of what they would sound like. I suspect that one of the prime motivations was the bold cover design – that may seem a little shallow in retrospect but it turned out the be one of the most rewarding record collecting decisions I ever made because it quickly led to an enduring fondness for Hutcherson’s music.
So why Stick-Up! over Components? Both are excellent and share many characteristics but I think there are two reasons for my fondness for the former. Firstly, I think the instrumentation is just a little less cluttered and that allows the music to shine through more clearly; second, the programme of tunes seems to embody the whole of Hutcherson’s oeuvre in one LP. What we have here is one of the genuinely and effortlessly hip records of the 1960s.
Across the six tunes we get to experience to full range of Hutcherson’s tastes, playing and compositional skills. The only track that Hutcherson didn’t write is Side A’s opener, a really driving version of Ornette Coleman’s Una Muy Bonita, one of several highlights on the LP. Next we get a sophisticated modal treat in the form of 8/4 Beat. Both these tracks really swing along propelled by Higgins’ cymbal pulse and iced by Hutcherson’s shimmering vibes. Then the mood changes completely for the romantic Summer Nights which conjours up images of a deserted big city in the wee small hours of the morning. Henderson sits out this one but Tyner’s diamond-like piano tone provides the edge to keep at bay any hint of sentimentality.
Side B is a sandwich affair. The wholesome slices of bread come in the form of two advanced and modern compositions, Black Circle and Blues Mind Matter but for me the real meat is the nine plus minutes of Verse. This cut contains clearly composed and planned set pieces that envelope and create the atmosphere for Hutcherson and Henderson to unleash their most potent solos of the date.
Some collectors spurn the Liberty era Blue Notes, which is to the advantage of those of us prepared to fish in this particular pool. There are plenty of top quality records from the period and first pressings are generally far more affordable than ones from the 1500 Series or the earlier releases in the 4000 Series. This is especially true of records that were recorded prior to the sale to Liberty but released after it. The Stick-Up! session was in 1966, yet the record itself was not released until 1968. In this case, despite the move away from Plastylite, the pressing quality is excellent. All things considered, listening to Stick-Up! is a fitting way to pay tribute to Hutcherson’s memory and, indeed, that of recording engineer par excellence Rudy Van Gelder who also passed away recently. I doubt we will hear their like again.
Between The Lines
This record is embellished by liner notes penned by that doyenne of the art, Leonard Feather. Feather’s depth of experience and sensitivity shine through here in the effortless way he weaves together the essential threads. The notes are so deceptively easy to read that you finish them before you notice they’re over and that you’ve been granted insights into Hutcherson’s recording history, his character and the nature of the music on this particular record.
By 1968, the era of erudite liner notes was drawing to a close. Before much longer, shorter word counts by trendy but less qualified authors came to dominate the rear covers of records under the corporate cost management measures of Liberty. So this essay is one to savour.
Feather was clearly familiar with the the musicians, their paths to this date and the music recorded at here. Even under Liberty’s aegis, Blue Note ensured that Feather had all he needed to do the record justice and he doesn’t disappoint.
For Collectors Only
Side A sports the blue and white “A Division of Liberty Records, Inc.” label and its deadwax bears a “Van Gelder” stamp and the hand etched matrix number “BNST 84244 A”. Side B is similarly graced with only the slightly different matrix number “BNST 84244 B”. The biscuit tips the scales at 150g and is in excellent condition. The unlaminated cover has a few minor marks that deny it the right to claim NM condition. The main point to note about the cover is the “1776 Broadway, New York 10019” address, an unusual occurence for Blue Note records of this period. All of which marks this out as a stereo first pressing.