Pianist Andrew Hill gives his audience something different. He's not concerned so much with a comfortable rhythmic groove or spot-on ensemble tone quality as he is with the spontaneity and free will of jazz. He and the members of his quintet stretch out for creative soloing and combine cohesively for an interesting affair on Time Lines.
But the album's rhythms aren't meant to mesmerize, the album's tonal resonance isn't always pure, and the smooth, linear flow of the music isn't designed to relax the listener. It's an intellectual pursuit. Hill gives his audience a memorable experience that's filled with dissonant and dense harmonies, stuttering rhythmic strides, and indefinite pitches that bend and strain throughout the performance.
Hill, who's been battling cancer since mid-2004, may feel that he's come full circle with Blue Note and his bands. Trumpeter Charles Tolliver, after all, was with him at the beginning. So was Blue Note. Times have changed, and Hill's music sounds refreshingly different, but the concept of the album remains true to his original course.
The pianist provides a strong undercurrent. His bassist and drummer add textural colors that remain heavy underneath, while both Tolliver and saxophonist Greg Tardy float melodic statements on top. With each of his woodwind instruments, Tardy displays a rich, luscious tone. Tolliver, on the other hand, prefers a rough-cut open horn tone that allows the pitch to stray continuously. His unique persona sets the mood for the album. Yin and yang compete to give the session a powerful presence.
Hill surrounds this battle with his musical format and a consistent forward drive. His portrayal of emotional turmoil skyrockets at times, sending up a fiery blaze of smoke and ash. Time Lines stirs the adrenalin with daydreams and nightmares of musical energy. As Hill closes the album with a solo piano interpretation of "Malachi, you can feel the emotional release that he's swept up in this collage of spontaneous ideas.
Personnel: Andrew Hill: piano; Charles Tolliver: trumpet; Greg Tardy: tenor saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet; John Hebert: bass; Eric McPherson: drums.