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Interviews

Andrew Hill: Coming Back Full Circle

By Published: February 27, 2006
AAJ: I want to ask you about your health. I know that in 2004 you were diagnosed with cancer, and I know that had to make for a difficult year. How has that affected your work and your life?

AH: Well, I'd had a resurgence and had built up this incredible circuit performing. So the scare of it all was that I had to stop performing and again, I'm beginning to perform again this year. The way it affected my life is it's given me an incredible love for the audience. At this point in my life, of course I would have a fixed income from certain things I've done, but the generosity of the music lovers in terms of their buying my CDs has put me in a position where I don't have to worry about money. I can be more appreciative of other things that make the music important. I can make the choice to either stop performing or perform. I'm lucky enough to have these doctors that insist upon my returning and being active. The answer to the whole question, in essence, is it's given everything more meaning and more validity. I don't look at it as just something bad happening. I think something beautiful happened, because the quality of life isn't in the quantity, but in the quality. I'm going to have a quality existence.

AAJ: What are you going to do in 2006? I know you're doing gigs in March.

AH: Yeah, I'm playing in New York in March and after that, I'm going to Europe for a European promo for a few days with the quintet. The next month, I'm touring Europe— then touring Europe again a bit after that. I have a commitment to do a string quartet, which I'm working on. There are a lot of things going on. The emphasis is over my state of being frightened with the fact that I have to live with a terminal illness—I'm just trying to do today.

AAJ: How do you think jazz music is doing today?

AH: I think it's better than it's been in twenty or thirty years. Like I said, a certain element of the black music was lost. Once it wasn't supported by the corporations, but it breathed better; it was more naturally selected by the people—who they liked, who they didn't. But now, we're dealing with a digital revolution. People will spend a hundred dollars for a Knicks ticket, but they won't spend it on jazz. And jazz had become such a high-priced music and at the same time, the selection wasn't based on knowledge—it was mostly hype.

But now, with Yahoo, that sort of thing, younger musicians are now listening—they can get Charlie Mingus streamed for a couple of dollars. They can do selective listening, and the music business is getting better. You've got an intelligent cross-section of people who like the music. What that does is that the younger musicians are looking at the Blue Note things as being classics of music. Not saying that's better than any other genre, but I do hear more younger players coming on the scene playing themselves, but in the tradition. The only thing I'm worried about is places like the MacArthur Foundation are looking for young jazz artists—they don't want to give a grant to anyone over forty. That's wrong to me, because they're setting up a false standard for the music. But in spite of all that, the music is doing so good. Especially in New York, it's incredible—people are out there creating this repertoire of music and no one's ever heard it before.

And people enjoy it. The scene hasn't been this vibrant in a long time. People talk about Wynton Marsalis being at the top, which is a conversation piece and an argument. But if you've got a top [laughing], you've got a bottom. Anytime you talk about a top, you sort of justify the so-called lower levels, so you've got places like the 55 Bar, all these places around now for musicians to play in. It sort of reminds me of the fifties; then you could get on the bus and come to the 5 Spot, two dollars, and listen to Coltrane—and get back on the bus and go home. All for twenty dollars or so. Jazz wasn't a big business then. So I think this is a good period, if the other hands don't put their fingers in the pie too much. The music hasn't been this good in thirty years. And as for Lincoln Center itself, I feel that Lincoln Center jazz will do great, because the only way it can survive is to be inclusive with others.


Selected Discography

Andrew Hill, Time Lines (Blue Note, 2006)
Andrew Hill, Mosaic Select 16 (Mosaic, 2005)
Andrew Hill, The Day the World Stood Still (Stunt, 2003)
Andrew Hill, A Beautiful Day (Palmetto, 2002)
Greg Osby, The Invisible Hand (Blue Note, 2000)
Anthony Braxton, Ten Compositions (Quartet) 2000 (CIMP, 2000)
Andrew Hill, Dusk (Palmetto, 1999)
Reggie Workman, Summit Conference (Postcards, 1993)
Andrew Hill, But Not Farewell (Blue Note, 1990)
Andrew Hill, Eternal Spirit (Blue Note, 1989)
Andrew Hill, Verona Rag (Soul Note, 1986)
Andrew Hill, Shades (Soul Note, 1986)
Andrew Hill, Faces of Hope (Soul Note, 1980)
Andrew Hill, Strange Serenade (Soul Note, 1980)
Andrew Hill, Nefertiti (Inner City/Test of Time, 1976)
Andrew Hill, Hommage (East Wind/Test of Time, 1975)
Andrew Hill, Divine Revelation (Steeplechase, 1975)
Andrew Hill, Blue Black (East Wind/Test of Time, 1975)
Andrew Hill, Spiral (Freedom, 1974)
Andrew Hill, Passing Ships (Blue Note, 1969)
Andrew Hill, Lift Every Voice (Blue Note, 1969)
Andrew Hill, Dance With Death (Blue Note, 1968)
Andrew Hill, Grass Roots (Blue Note, 1968)
Andrew Hill, Involution (Blue Note, 1966)
Andrew Hill, Compulsion (Blue Note, 1965)
Andrew Hill, One for One (Blue Note, 1965)
Andrew Hill, Cosmos (Blue Note, 1965)
Bobby Hutcherson, Dialogue (Blue Note, 1965)
Bobby Hurcherson, Spiral (Blue Note, 1965)
Andrew Hill, Andrew!!! (Blue Note, 1964)
Andrew Hill, Point of Departure (Blue Note, 1964)
Andrew Hill, Judgement! (Blue Note, 1964)
Andrew Hill, Smoke Stack (Blue Note, 1963)
Andrew Hill, Black Fire (Blue Note, 1963)
Hank Mobley, No Room for Squares (Blue Note, 1963)
Joe Henderson, Our Thing (Blue Note, 1963)
Hank Mobley, Straight No Filter (Blue Note, 1963)
Andrew Hill, So in Love (Warwick, 1960)

Photo Credits:
Top Photo: Courtesy of Andrew Hill
Second Photo: Russ Escritt
Third Photo: Frank Rubolino
Bottom Photo: Jimmy Katz

Related Article: Andrew Hill Sextet at Iridium (Concert Review, 2004)

Note: Portions of this interview were also published in the AAJ-NY Newspaper. Thanks to Laurence Donohue-Greene for his assistance.



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