Past, Present & Future: Bobby Hutcherson - "Good Bait"

Bobby Hutcherson • Good Bait • 1985 • Landmark Records
Recorded August 9 & 10, 1984 at Fantasy Studio "C", Berkeley, CA

The Selections:

The Tracks:

A1. Love Samba
A2. Good Bait
A3. Highway One
B1. In Walked Bud
B2. Montgomery
B3. Spring Is Here
B4. Israel

The Players:

Bobby Hutcherson - Vibes
Branford Marsalis - Tenor Sax, Soprano Sax
George Cables - Piano
Ray Drummond - Bass
Philly Joe Jones - Drums

The Record:

Bobby Hutcherson Performing In 1984 (Photo By Tom Copi)

Amazingly, Bobby Hutcherson and Orrin Keepnews had never worked together prior to 1984 when they decided to get together and record Good Bait. Given the number of sessions that the two jazz men were involved in over the years it seems improbable that their paths never crossed, and yet here we are in the mid-eighties with them meeting in the studio for the first time. The resulting album - the first to be released on Keepnews' new Landmark Records label - is a completely satisfying post-bop outing by a hugely talented group of musicians.

Joining Hutcherson was another legendary player in Philly Joe Jones (who played on one classic album after another during jazz's golden age), as well as George Cables and Ray Drummond, a couple cats who made their name doing some impressive sidework in the 1970s. Rounding out the quartet was a young Branford Marsalis, who at this point was just starting on his jazz journey, one which is still going strong to this day (his quartet has put out some of the finest jazz recordings of the last decade). If the group sounds like they've been playing together for years, this is partly due to Hutcherson's ongoing relationship with Drummond and Cables. Drummond appeared on Cirrus and Live at Montreaux, while Cables appeared on a number of late-'70s sessions, including WaitingKnucklebean and Un Poco Loco.

All involved get their chance to shine on a varied set of tracks, the highlights of which are Hutcherson's "Highway One" (off the 1978 album of the same name that also featured Cables) and the group's take on the jazz standard "Israel," which features Marsalis on both the tenor and soprano saxophones (at twenty-four Marsalis more than holds his own with his older and more experienced counterparts). As Keepnews accurately states in the liner notes, these tunes show off the unity of the players as well as "a new jazz tradition of the '80s, an approach that makes fresh and valid use of ingredients stretching from today back to the early bebop masters." This combination of influences may seem obvious today, as it is employed by many modern-day jazz artists, but it was not so obvious back in 1985 when the prevailing jazz styles of the day were stale fusion and soft jazz, two styles that Hutcherson and company seemed more than happy to leave in the dust with the sounds of some fantastic straight-ahead jazz music. 

The Vinyl:


Notes: Not too much to say about the vinyl, it's your standard issue mid-eighties LP release, not particularly thick, although surprisingly not extremely flimsy either. Pretty easy to identify which pressing you have: there are only three vinyl entries on Discogs for Good Bait, each one issued in 1985 (in the US, Japan and Switzerland). So if you have a copy you can be pretty darn sure it's a first and only pressing.

The Price: This was a sealed copy that I picked up online for $8. That was seven years ago and I'd say that's about what you could expect to pay these days, maybe a touch more. For whatever reason, the CD version seems to be the one collectors want, as of this writing there were two copies for sale on eBay, one going for $78 and the other going for $96, both coming from sellers in Japan.

The Sound: Excellent sound, but definitely a more modern analog experience than more vintage LPs, I'm guessing mostly due to the improvement in recording equipment and techniques over the years. This was a few years before jazz LPs were made from digital transfers so it still has a nice wide sound with lots of depth and separation of the instruments during playback.

Final Thoughts:

Given the musicians involved and how enjoyable Good Bait is, it is very surprising that the album is currently out-of-print, but luckily it can be found on the cheap on vinyl. Any way you acquire it, the album is highly recommended for fans of straight-ahead jazz, and in particular for those who want to further explore the musical adventures of Hutcherson and Marsalis. 

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