Bobby Hutcherson, Jazz Vibraphone Modernist, Has Died The mallet percussionist released more than 40 albums and played on many classics of the 1960s and '70s, expanding the scope of what was possible on his instrument. He was 75.
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Bobby Hutcherson, Jazz Vibraphone Modernist, Has Died

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Bobby Hutcherson, Jazz Vibraphone Modernist, Has Died

Bobby Hutcherson, Jazz Vibraphone Modernist, Has Died

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Bobby Hutcherson made music that helped define an instrument.

(SOUNDBITE OF BOBBY HUTCHERSON SONG, "WHO'S GOT YOU?")

CORNISH: He was a vibraphonist. He pushed the scope of what the mallets and metal could bring to music. He died Monday at the age of 75. NPR's Andrew Limbong has this remembrance.

ANDREW LIMBONG, BYLINE: Bobby Hutcherson played his first live show on the vibraphone before taking any lessons. He was in junior high school and his friend, bassist Herbie Lewis, wrote down right on the vibraphone which notes to play and when. The system worked great while they were practicing but just before showtime, Bobby Hutcherson told NPR that the stage manager thought that the vibes were dirty and wiped it clean.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

BOBBY HUTCHERSON: And I said, no, you didn't. You didn't do that. Yes, I did (laughter). The curtain opens, you know, and there's my parents looking - sitting there, looking. That's our son. I think I hit the first two notes and then the rest was complete chaos.

LIMBONG: He signed up for lessons after that.

(SOUNDBITE OF BOBBY HUTCHERSON SONG, "LES NOIRS MARCHANT")

LIMBONG: Bobby Hutcherson was born in Los Angeles in 1941. He moved to New York, and by the time the 1960s came around he wanted to do something new with the vibraphone. He told NPR in 2014 that because of all the things going on in the world, the revolutions and riots, he thought it'd be a mistake to just copy what the other big vibe players like Milt Jackson and Lionel Hampton were doing.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

HUTCHERSON: There was an awful lot of things going on for the music to describe, you know? Because at that time, the music was almost like a - it was like a newspaper of what was going on in the streets.

LIMBONG: What you're hearing right now is a result of that from "Dialogue," his debut album with the legendary Blue Note Records.

(SOUNDBITE OF BOBBY HUTCHERSON SONG, "LES NOIRS MARCHANT")

WARREN WOLF: He came along and just totally changed the way that most people were used to hearing the vibes.

LIMBONG: That's Warren Wolf. He's a vibe player. In fact, he's the guy Hutcherson used to tell people to call up when he couldn't make a gig himself.

WOLF: He brought an avant-garde technique to the instrument, and he kind of played the vibes like how a horn player would normally play. So he was just a natural wonder.

LIMBONG: You can sort of hear it in the track he did with saxophonist Harold Land called "Ummh."

(SOUNDBITE OF BOBBY HUTCHERSON SONG, "UMMH")

LIMBONG: Hutcherson made dozens of albums, worked with nearly every great in jazz and had a million ways to play the same note.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

HUTCHERSON: Every note fits. There is no wrong note. It's only the reaction on your face. You know, you hit a note and you say, ow (ph) - that's wrong (laughter). You can hit the same note again and pow (ph) - that note is right. It's the same note.

(SOUNDBITE OF BOBBY HUTCHERSON SONG, "'TIL THEN")

LIMBONG: Andrew Limbong, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF BOBBY HUTCHERSON SONG, "'TIL THEN")

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