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Vibes legend Bobby Hutcherson tops Bay Area jazz week

Bobby Hutcherson
David Becker

What can this space say about Bobby Hutcherson that it hasn't already? That even if one of his great foundational stories -- that he wrote the names of the keys on the vibraphone bars to get ready for his first gig on the instrument, then his mother went into a cleaning jag and wiped off the markings right before the show -- isn't 100% true, it ought to be. That his tunes form the bulk of my ringtone library. That he's near the top of my "Needs to Live Forever to Make the World Liveable" list.

The Bay Area longtimer, long considered one of the two or three absolute legends of the vibes, has had to limit appearances lately do to health concerns, but when he does play, it's a cause for celebration and revelation. A couple of years ago, he revealed the swinging magic he could make in an unlikely partnership with organist Joey DeFrancesco. For a series of SFJAZZ Center shows this week, he'll add sax ace David Sanborn to the mix to kick up the groove a bit more. Shows are at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 4 p.m. Sunday. Tickets, at $25 to $65, are almost sold out, so hop to it.

Also worth noting on the Bay Area jazz scene this week:

  • Pianist Cava Menzies and trumpeter Nick Phillips play ballads with spare phrasing and a big emotional wallop, 8 p.m. Monday at Yoshi's Oakland. $18
  • Henry Clement, aka Big Chief Takawaka, gets the joint jumping with New Orleans street music as real as it gets, 8 p.m. Tuesday at Yoshi's Oakland. $17
  • A high voltage quartet -- Joe Lovano on sax, Leo Genovese on piano, Esperanza Spalding on bass and Jack DeJohnette drumming -- convenes for shows at 7 and 9:30 p.m. Wednesday at SFJAZZ Center. Tickets sold out a few minutes after they went on sale, but there are usually a few turn-in tickets available the day of the show.
  • Scott Hamilton, an agile saxophonist and longtime Bay Area fixture now enjoying a bit of respect in Europe, returns home for a gig with piano powerhouse Larry Vukovich, 8 p.m. Saturday at Piedmont Piano Company in Oakland. $20
  • Trumpet maestro Erik Jekabson adds percussionist John Santos to kick up the already strong Latin flavor of his quartet, 8 p.m. Saturday at The Sound Room in Oakland. $20
  • East Bay native Terrence Brewer, a phenomenally nimble guitarist with groove to spare, adds some gospel to the mix for an 8 p.m. Saturday show at Berkeley's Jazzschool. $12-$15
  • Bassist Omar Avital, whose work blends solid jazz chops with influences from the Middle East, performs with his quartet, 7 and 9 p.m. Sunday at Yoshi's San Francisco. $17-$22
  • Lavishly gifted singer Kim Nalley sings "freedome songs" -- from classic spirituals to civil rights anthems -- 4:30 p.m. Sunday at Berkeley's Jazzschool. $12-$15
  • Rising-star pianist Helen Sung performs with her quintet, 4:30 p.m. Sunday at Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society near Half Moon Bay. $40
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