By CARL GLATZEL, Editor
Recorded in July of 1968, Total Eclipse sounds leaner when compared to Patterns even though both feature a quintet. This pared-down feel may be attributed to the pianist on the date, Chick Corea. Less prone to embellishments than his Patterns counterpart, Corea embodies a wholly modern approach to piano. A contemporary of Herbie Hancock, the two share a similar tact on keyboard when comping behind soloists as well as a later fascination with fusion and electronics. Corea’s contribution can be felt throughout this 1968 session.
The album starts out with an upbeat track entitled Herzog. With Hutcherson’s main collaborator, Harold Land, firmly planted in the tenor seat a theme is established and Corea takes the lead with a brisk-paced solo. Hutcherson punctuates throughout until he takes a solo which matches Corea’s in speed and invention. Joe Chambers and Reggie Johnson shore up any loose ends while keeping perfect time on drums and double bass respectively. Harold Land then takes over for Hutcherson and wails on his outing. A perfect foil for Corea, Land is also uniquely modern in his approach to tenor. At times he plays with outside leanings but never moves above middle register — a straight arrow for tenor in 1968.
Up next is the title track, Total Eclipse, which slows down the quintet’s pace to a contemplative mood. The slower time signature offers Land more space to explore which comes as a benefit to the listener. Here is where Land excels and shines with a signature solo — breezy, earthy and tasteful. Corea also takes advantage of the space and comps beautifully behind Land, punctuating his lines yet staying out of the tenor giant’s gait. Clocking in at just shy of 9 minutes, Total Eclipse has enough space for every lead voice and Hutcherson moves forward with a gentlemanly approach to his solo. Much more concise than Land’s, Hutcherson bows out quickly to allow Corea more time to feel his way around. And just like Land, Corea shines in this hushed environment. With the bottom end firmly planted by Johnson and Chambers, Corea is granted access to investigate the terrain with an abstract solo.
Matrix, the following track and penned by Corea, picks things up again and pushes Land out in front with a rough and tumble solo. We hear Land approaching the top of his register which adds to the intensity of the track. While Chambers bubbles and churns underneath, Hutcherson takes an extended solo displaying his quick dexterity on the unwieldy instrument. After a somewhat free outing Hutcherson allows Corea to venture in and take the reins. After a short burst of energy on the keyboard, the quintet returns to the theme and closes it out.
A seeming roller coaster of emotions, the session takes another turn down a melancholy avenue with the following track, Same Shame. At nearly 9-1/2 minutes, this track unfolds slowly allowing each member ample time in the spotlight. After Hutcherson’s mid-tempo solo, Land slows things down at the beginning of his outing but Corea and Chamber’s edgy comping styles push the tenor player to more agitated activity. Corea again takes full advantage of the allotted space and lays down a brilliant solo. The languid lines of the theme fold back in on itself and ends the dreamy track.
The real standout of this session anchors the album in truly modern panache, the final track, Pompeian, features a sweet and sour approach — a compositional style used on sessions past by Hutcherson’s former session leader, Jackie McLean. A straight-forward theme carried throughout the composition is repeated by the quintet which is then dissected by abstract interludes used as a means to jointly solo. Land is at home on flute which flutters throughout the stormy turbulence. Chambers finds himself in familiar territory which harkens back a few years to albums like 1965’s Components. Either an apparition of Hutcherson’s former days in the avant-garde or a foreshadowing of things to come — it’s hard to say. Whatever it is it’s amazing and it totally engulfs the listener. One does not have long to wait for what comes next in this auditory game of cat and mouse. Pompeian is a somewhat unorthodox end to what some say is a transitional album — one is at a loss for what exactly may come next in Hutcherson’s outstanding catalog.