Thursday, April 3, 2008

Climbing Andrew's Hill

Often considered the last of Blue Note co-founder Alfred Lion's "great enthusiasms," pianist composer Andrew Hill remains one of the most important figures in the history of jazz. His first major breakthrough occurred as sideman for a session led by Joe Henderson, Our Thing. It was here that he caught the attention of Lion and was immediately signed to a record contract with his company. From here Hill went on to record an extraordinary series of album with an incredible volume of original compositions in a remarkably short period of time. These include Black Fire (April 1963), Smokestack (December 1963), Judgment! (January 1964) and Point of Departure (March 1964.) The bassist Richard Davis accompanies Hill throughout but other musicians at these sessions include the above mentioned Henderson, Kenny Dorham, Bobby Hutcherson, Eric Dolphy, Eddie Khan, Roy Haynes, Elvin Jones and the young Tony Williams. The arrangements throughout are as starkly original as the high advanced compositions themselves. Like all the great masters of jazz Hill's work offers both profound insights into the musics historical traditions and origin as well as vision and insight into it's future horizons. Hill's most immediate antecedent is likely the innovative pianist Herbie Nichols, who also found patronage at Blue Note by way of Lion. To be sure, there is a clear lineage from Powell and Monk to Nichols, Hill and the awesome Cecil Taylor. As a composer Hill ranks among these as one of the greatest and, with the obvious exception of Monk, his contributions may possibly prove to be the most lasting. If you have never heard Andrew Hill's music you are in for some big beautiful surprises. I would recommend, Smokestack, as the best place to start. Listen for the quote of Monk's, Little Rootie Tootie, on the alternate take of, Not So!

No comments: