As told on Michael Cuscuna's liner notes, the music on Andrew Hill's Passing Ships
has gone unheard for 34 years. Thanks to the efforts of both Hill and Cuscuna, the tapes of this 1969 session were properly restored and revived. This music is available for the first time as a limited edition 24-bit re-mastered CD.
Much like the music of Thelonius Monk, Hill's art seems to have always been fully conceived at its inception, requiring little, if any, development thereafter. How else can one explain the stunning similarities between this 1969 date with Hill's expansive work on 2000's Dusk and 2002's A Beautiful Day? Like those albums, there is much to praise here. There's the brassy, swinging counter-punch of "Sideways," the unhurried, melodic mediations of the title track, the spiraling grooves of "Plantation Bag," and the clever harmonic structure of "Cascade."
"Noon Tide" uses the Latin jazz scheme of another Hill composition, "Catta," and provides powerful solos by Joe Farrell and Dizzy Reece. Employing a nonet, Hill creates one enchanting sound-scape after another. Though Hill recalls being somewhat critical of the players' ability to recreate the music he wanted, the artists on Passing Ships do heroic work in interpreting the numerous complexities of Hill's compositions.
As fortuitous and joyous as the discovery of this Hill material is, Blue Note is taking the wrong approach by releasing it in a limited edition fashion. Similar treatment of Lee Morgan's Sonic Boom and Larry Young's Mother Ship show dubious faith and dedication by the label. This music really is, as their own logo states, the finest in jazz.
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This review first appeared in All About Jazz: Los Angeles .
Personnel: Woody Shaw, Dizzy Reece- trumpets; Julian Priestertrombone;
Bob Northern- French horn; Howard Johnson- tuba,
bass clarinet; Joe Farrell- soprano sax, tenor sax, alto flute, bass
clarinet, English horn; Andrew Hill- piano; Ron Carter- bass;
Lenny White- drums