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Until Mosaic issued the limited-edition, seven-disc box set, The Complete Blue Note Andrew Hill Sessions (1963-66), pianist Andrew Hill's remarkably prolific and consistently excellent Blue Note recordings languished in obscurity, especially on CD where only his masterpiece, 1964’s Point of Departure, was available with any certainty. Since then at least ten titles recorded between 1963 and 1970 have seen individual release (most with alternate takes), with Change being one of the most recent to be made available on its own.
In a sense, all of Andrew Hill’s Blue Notes sound alike. This is by no means criticism, considering how often he seems to have been able to go into the studio with musicians the caliber of Eric Dolphy, Joe Henderson, John Gilmore, Freddie Hubbard, Roy Haynes, Elvin Jones, Tony Williams, Richard Davis and Joe Farrell, among others. Saxophonist Sam Rivers, bassist Walter Booker and drummer JC Moses completed this 1966 edition of his quartet. The CD’s title indicates that this marked the beginning of a free period in Hill’s progression and Rivers’ contribution bears this out, but neither Blue Note nor Hill were inclined towards ‘free jazz’ in its truest sense.
Whatever the category, even Alfred Lion didn’t know what to do with a musician as cerebral, fresh, inventive, challenging and adventurous as Hill. The composer’s discipline is evident on the 11-minute opening cut “Violence,” spurred by a blistering Rivers solo and accented by Hill’s combination of Monk-ish geometry and old-fashioned stride. Rivers sits out for the inaptly titled “Pain,” a swinging trio number, then returns for the Latinized “Illusion.” Rivers can be a dominant presence and because he doesn’t play on every cut, this session feels a little incomplete and less than fully formed, not as darkly immersive and gravitational as some of the classic work that followed. But the beautiful trio piece “Lust” and the martial “Desire” that close the original LP are the pianist at his most focused and intense and exemplify the quality-guarantee implicit in any Andrew Hill recording.