by Nick Stubblefield
Last Sunday at the Jazz Standard, drummer Brian Blade’s current project, the sextet “Life Cycles,” took the stage and played a forty-five minute set of rapturous, original jazz tunes to an enthusiastic sold-out house. At least, I thought we’d just heard an original set of compositions. As the last note finished ringing, Blade stood up, lightly bowed, and with the soft-spoken cadence of a late-night jazz radio DJ, thanked us for listening to a live performance of vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson’s entire Now! album, originally released in 1970.
Blade made a bold choice by omitting that important context until the very end, and he surely knew that while some of his audience might have recognized the compositions, many of the the casual jazz-listener tourists that often populate the club would not. Assuming I was hearing new compositions, I listened intently to an ensemble that was actually infusing an older set of music with an electric and modern energy.