More than anything, music is similar to line. Music is also unidirectional; it cannot back up within the same context and repeat what has just been done. Excluding the shallowness or depth of the resonance of sound, the dimensionality in music stems from the intersection of lines as one instrumental line overlaps the other. An example of this interrelationship comes in a 1993 duo date with drummer Chico Hamilton and the late, unsurpassable pianist, Andrew Hill, on Dreams Come True.
Those familiar with Chico Hamilton's impervious pulsations will recognize his equally adept skill at chasing seemingly non-rhythmic musical curves as he sensibly integrates with Hill's mysteriously indeterminate direction for improvisation. The two instrumentalists nearly partition themselves from one another and the correspondence that occurs between them is thoroughly engaging, intriguing and challenging, especially in "Ohho" where the unifying of disparate music components demands joyful attention. The piano's melody is simply rocked by Hamilton's signature stick work. Hill catches and then lets it go at which point Hamilton responds and makes drum-sense out of the double musical line.
The duo's intention is not to establish synchrony but to discover the groove that surges out of placing musical elements against each other; developing an expressiveness that rises from that coincidence, which is strangely connected, like snow-covered tulips. It is a matter of how to complement one form of phraseology with another: from a potently fluid piano language to a discrete, stark, inherently colorful set of percussive riffs.
Hamilton demonstrates nothing but expertise at embellishing timbre: with brush to cymbal, hi-hat, and stick ripping the cymbal ("Ohho," Hamilton's "Three Notes and A Brush"); to eleven minutes of phenomenal solo tambourine, floating the pulse and measuring persistent time above a beautifully phrased melodic exploration (Hill's "Watch That Dream"); to polyrhythmic hands on tom over a quirky exposition on the piano full of chords and few individual notes (Hamilton's "And the Drums Sing"); to sticks to metal edge and snare that render a full rich drum statement ("Clifford's Gone"); to using, without sacrificing any part of it, the complete drum-set on Gillespie's "Shaw Nuff."
Hill was not necessarily an explosive pianist, although emphasis was his medium ("Hill's "Clifford's Gone," "Bless That Dream") with a touch that manifested an elegant and respectful approach to his instrument. He plays mindfully and abstractly. A sense of tempo involves responding to his unique map ("Bless That Dream"). He can arrest direction in mid-stream or go into odd syncopations ("Three Notes and A Brush," the solo "Bless That Dream," Hill's "Composition B (#)"). But he always has a stopping place that is logical and sensitive.
Not since Max Roach and Abdullah Ibrahim have two musicians formed such an unlikely match. But since when can't an odd couple create a powerful statement in their juxtaposition?
Visit Chico Hamilton and Andrew Hill and on the web.
Personnel: Chico Hamilton: drums, tambourine; Andrew Hill: piano.