Bobby Hutcherson

Easily one of jazz's greatest vibraphonists, Bobby Hutcherson epitomized his instrument in relation to the era in which he came of age the way Lionel Hampton did with swing or Milt Jackson with bop. He isn't as well-known as those two forebears, perhaps because he started out in less-accessible territory when he emerged in the '60s playing cerebral, challenging modern jazz that often bordered on avant-garde. Along with Gary Burton, the other seminal vibraphone talent of the '60s, Hutcherson helped modernize his instrument by redefining what could be done with it -- sonically, technically, melodically, and emotionally. In the process, he became one of the defining (if underappreciated) voices in the so-called "new thing" portion of Blue Note's glorious '60s roster. Hutcherson gradually moved into a more mainstream, modal post-bop style that, if not as adventurous as his early work, still maintained his reputation as one of the most advanced masters of his instrument.