Jazz music, news and views

Friday, July 21, 2006

Gregory Hutchinson


Last night, I unintentionally played two neighboring tracks that both contained drummer Gregory Hutchinson. Of course, there wasn’t anything wrong with this, though he is fairly recognizable.

Hutchinson is about as tasteful as they come these days. While most of his fans may enjoy his work with the current crop of modern musicians (Roy Hargrove, Joshua Redman, Eric Reed or Peter Martin), he came up through the ranks playing with veterans like Red Rodney, Betty Carter, Ray Brown and Joe Henderson. 36 now, he’s studied with Marvin “Smitty” Smith and Kenny Washington as well as with Justin DiCioccio at the Manhattan School of Music.

His swing feel (especially at fast tempos) hints at one of his favorite influences, Philly Joe Jones, but he can also give a wider swing like Elvin Jones (though staying more in the pocket). When coloring a group’s performance, you can hear the fluidity of Tony Williams and funky flair of Dave Weckl in addition to some soul and hip-hop influences. Listeners who enjoy the dynamism and crispness of contemporaries like Brian Blade, Weckl, Billy Kilson, Bill Stewart or Nate Smith will also find themselves gravitating towards Hutchinson’s endless chops and cleverly crafted textures.

Some visual aids:

The first video is an unaccompanied drum solo. When he starts playing “time” on the ride cymbal during the solo, you can hear him playing straight eighth notes on the snare over the swing feel on the ride, which will sound familiar to Art Blakey enthusiasts. This requires not only true limb independence but also a keenness for superimposing seemingly incompatible rhythmic figures over each other. It would be like rubbing your stomach while patting your head but much faster (and much hipper).

The second video is a drum solo over a vamp that closes Joshua Redman’s “Leap of Faith” at the Bern Jazz Festival. Hutchinson dishes out some fierce statements with finesse while accenting Redman’s equally powerful playing over a Tyneresque piano vamp from Aaron Goldberg. This is Redman at his best (brief though the footage may be).

Some listening:

Mark Whitfield: “Headin’ to the Wes’ Side” from 7th Ave. Stroll. Listen to Hutchinson “trading eights” with the group.

Incidentally, the two tracks I played were from Ralph Bowen's Keep the Change and Peter Martin's In the P.M., both of which I recommend. I love the sound of his drums on the latter.

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