VIBRAPHONE PLAYER BOBBY HUTCHINSON AND CHROMATIC HARMONICA PLAYER “TOOTS” THIELMANS
In jazz, history counts for a lot. Every current performer of note stands on the shoulders of all those who came before. In the case of vibraphone players the early jazz giant on the instrument was Lionel Hampton. Lionel first popularized the instrument while playing with Benny Goodman during the swing era. He was a two mallet player (one in each hand) with a rapid aggressive splashy style suited to the music of the day. He never really modernized his style when the likes of Charlie Parker invented Be-bop. That was left to the next generation of performers who immersed themselves in the new style. Milt Jackson, while still a two mallet player, had a style strongly influenced by the blues and Be-bop. He was not a show man in the Hampton tradition but rather made his name as a band member of the Modern Jazz Quartet. The MJQ had a career that spanned over forty years and Jackson was an integral component in their reflective style of jazz. Bobby Hutchinson and Gary Burton careers’ both somewhat overlapped Jackson’s and they both rose to fame in the 60’s and 70’s. They were the new generation who favored the use of four mallets (two in each hand) that allowed for a more complex pianistic style of performance. Although somewhat now retired Gary Burton is still around and is probably still performing in a semi-professional capacity. Bobby Hutchinson passed away on August 15, 2016 surrounded by his family in the living room of his long time home in Montara, California. He was 75 years old.
Jean-Baptiste Frederic Isidore Thielemans was born in Belgium and began studying the harmonica at age 3, and by age 17 he was also proficient on guitar. He became known as “Toots”. The Chromatic Harmonica does not have the same historical traditions of other jazz instruments so he is literally the first of his kind. Although he has played with all the great jazz soloists, including Charlie Parker, he is best known for his composition Bluesette. He died in Brussels on August 22, 2016. He was 94 years old.