Memorable Moment: Bobby Hutcherson

By Joe Alterman, 2/7/2012

As a volunteer at this year's NEA Jazz Masters Awards, I was lucky enough to attend a rehearsal of Bobby Hutcherson, Jim Hall and Kenny Barron. As Hutcherson walked into the room (besides introducing himself for the very first time to Jim Hall!), it was obvious that he was in much pain - he has emphysema and uses oxygen supply -. All that pain seemed to go away as soon as he touched his instrument. It was like magic, like medicine and it was quite inspiring to see not just how much love he has for the music, but how much love the music has for him. 

As the rehearsal continued on, others who were at Jazz At Lincoln Center that day popped in the room to hear the music. One of those people was saxophonist Jeff Clayton. 

At the end of that specific take on the tune, Clayton said hello to Hutcherson and asked how he was doing. Hutcherson responded in quite a joyful tone. "Well," he said. "I'm doing good!" Then he paused and said, "Life is good, isn't it?" 

Clayton nodded, looked down at Hutcherson's oxygen machine and said, "Sometimes." 

Hutcherson smiled, and through that that smile he spoke. "No," he said. "It's good."