Alfred Lion, founder of Blue Note records, reaction to encountering pianist Andrew Hill's music said it was exactly like the experience he had the first time he heard Thelonious Monk and Herbie Nichols. Lion and Blue Note devoted most of the 1960s to recording sessions for Hill. His sixties sessions were unique post-Monk visions somewhere between bop and the avant-garde. Like Herbie Nichols, Hill didn't receive the deserved public recognition during his Blue Note career. And unlike Monk, he didn't persist in the New York scene suffering in semi-obscurity until being "discovered" by the masses. Hill moved to the West Coast, spending the 1970s and 80s teaching and performing solo recitals.
His return to New York a few years ago signaled a readiness to enter the jazz dialogue once again. Earlier this year, he, along with guitarist Jim Hall, sat in as sidemen on Greg Osby's four star recording The Invisible Hand (Blue Note). This release, as leader for Palmetto, assembles a quintet of instruments that parallel his 60s opus Point Of Departure. Eschewing bop for melancholy, Hill's all too personal music is thoughtful, meditative, and accessibly intellectual. He has found a musical soulmate in alto saxophonist Marty Ehrlich. The 45 year-old reedist plays a cerebral horn a la John Carter and Julius Hemphill. Joined by young lion Greg Tardy and Ron Horton of the Jazz Composer's Alliance, Hill develops a complete suite of music. From horn chorale work to the Monk influenced piano of "ML," Hill plays with shifting time sequences and patterns. Exactly the attractiveness he has to Greg Osby and his sidemen Ehrlich and Horton. "Tough Love" opens with an allusion to "Thanks For The Memories" before exercising some elegant demons. "15/8" another variant timepiece allows his rhythm section to boil, with Ehrlich, Tardy and Horton letting their respective big dogs eat. Hill's music of the sixties opened doors for musicians like Anthony Braxton, Myra Melford, Dave Douglas, and Greg Osby. His return to the New York spotlight will definitely nudge the jazz world into new and creative directions.
Personnel: Andrew Hill: piano; Ron Horton: trumpet; Greg Tardy: tenor saxophone, clarinet, flute; Marty Ehrlich: lto saxophone; Scott Colley: bass; Billy Drummond: drums.