The vibraphone is a special instrument. That spooky, smoky, sparkling sound — there's nothing like it. And there's nothing like hearing the vibes played by Bobby Hutcherson.
Hutcherson has covered a lot of ground on his instrument. In the 1950s he was already playing professional gigs, as a teenager. In the '60s, he was a leading light of jazz's avant garde, breaking new ground on some of the most revered LPs issued by Blue Note Records.
Now 73 years old, Bobby Hutcherson has a new album on Blue Note called Enjoy the View. His history with the label goes back to his landmark 1965 debut as a bandleader, Dialogue. The radical music on that album both thrilled and infuriated jazz fans — but Hutcherson says the sound of it came almost naturally from the New York jazz scene in the '60s.
"In New York, you know, there was a big influx of new musicians. There was a lot of history being presented at that time. I mean, you could stop on a street corner and hear Malcolm X," Hutcherson says. "At that time, the music was almost like a newspaper of what was going on in the street."
Especially, Hutcherson says, because restrictive "cabaret card" system for New York performers at the time was driving unlicensed players out of the nightclubs — and into loose, massive jam sessions at the lofts where they lived. Hear the full interview with NPR's Arun Rath at the audio link.