Jazz vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson has a weather advisory for anyone planning to see his performance at the Montpelier Cultural Arts Center this Friday.
You might feel a few raindrops. You could see the sun, or a cloud or two. Speaking on the phone from his home near San Francisco, the 58-year-old musician explains:
"When it's a sunny day, there is a [musical] scale for that in the universe.
"If I play a song and it feels like it's cloudy or raining, that's because we're playing on the same scale of when it rains. . . . Music is a powerful thing; it makes it rain, makes men go to war."
Hutcherson says that in his 46 years as a jazzman, he's mastered this concept and how to convey it to audiences.
"If you're aware of those notes, then you're in touch with how to immediately grasp that feeling when you're playing. You don't just luck up on it," he says.
It's a skill he's been fine-tuning since age 13, when he first heard the vibraphone in his home town of Pasadena. To make money to buy the instrument, he helped his father do bricklaying. He learned the instrument in his free time, eventually becoming good enough to perform at school functions.
He graduated to playing L.A. clubs, including the Sunset and the Renaissance in the era when Dexter Gordon, Charles Lloyd and Ornette Coleman dominated West Coast jazz.
Hutcherson got his big break through his sister Peggy. At 19, he was invited to play gigs in New York through contacts she made as a Broadway actress and Raelette in Ray Charles's band.
After success in the United States and abroad, he made his way back to the West Coast 10 years ago. His enthusiasm for his craft continues unabated. "I enjoy delving down into my mind and going as far as I can and exploring sounds and rhythms," he says, "rhythms that make things happen."
Hip-hop could learn something from his approach, he says. He admires the music his three sons grew up on for its ability to deliver verbal messages but finds its rhythms simplistic.
"Hip-hop is wonderful," he says. "It's more the message of people talking to each other about things that have happened. . . . For me, it's not advanced enough musically. I'm more into harmony and rhythms, more into classical music like Stravinsky. I go into atonal harmonies, as opposed to three-note chords.
"The thing is with hip-hop, once they get one thing, it happens over and over again. How many times can we do this? It gets to be cold potatoes. I try to make [my music] so everywhere you turn, it's the most unbelievable thing you've ever heard . . . and to keep it going."
Bobby Hutcherson kicks off the Montpelier Cultural Arts Center's fall jazz series at 8 p.m. Friday. The rest of the series includes: the Buck Hill Quartet, Sept. 17; Richie Havens, Sept. 24; McCoy Tyner, Oct. 1; Charles Covington Trio, Oct. 8; Davey Yarborough Trio, Oct. 22; the Ronnie Wells and Ron Ellison Quintets, Oct. 29. Montpelier Cultural Arts Center, 12826 Laurel-Bowie Rd., Laurel. Admission is $15. For more information, call 301-953-1993.
CAPTION: Bobby Hutcherson performs Friday at the Montpelier Cultural Arts Center.