Time Lines marks the beginning of Andrew Hill's third professional association with the Blue Note label. Based on the results of the previous ones, he has a lot to live up to, but he proves himself more than equal to the challenge.
From the time of his earliest work, Hill's music has had to be dealt with on its own terms, and there is no evident decline in his individuality here. This, plus the fact that he has maintained remarkable consistency throughout his career, has ensured that musicians under his leadership have been confronted with the not inconsiderable task of being themselves while simultaneously meeting the demands of his compositions. This all happens successfully here, and in no uncertain terms.
Charles Tolliver is a near-contemporary of Hill, and he brings his wealth of musical experience to bear on the likes of "Smooth," where Greg Tardy shows what a monster clarinetist he is; his tenor sax and bass clarinet work are equally distinctive. He does a whole lot more than double for the sake of doubling, and the overall effect of his contributions is to widen considerably the range of tonal colours available to the quintet.
The groove established by bassist John Hebert and drummer Eric McPherson in the opening bars of the enigmatically titled "Ry Round 1" affords a glimpse of how Hill's compositions can be rhythmically constructed, and the effect is every bit as distinctive as anything to come from the pen of Herbie Nichols. Equally significantly, this same introduction is emblematic of how Hill's music makes demands of musicians that lay outside of the scope of "correct" virtuosity.
Hill's approach to the piano is unsurprisingly as personal as his compositions, best exemplified by his solo piano reading of "Malachi," a tribute to Malachi Favors, which closes the album. His is essentially a lyrical instrumental voice, notable amongst other things for the complete lack of overt influences.
In any more than perfunctory discussion of Andrew Hill's music there comes a point at which superlatives either run out or become simply irrelevant. This programme of Andrew Hill's music, performed by a band able to meet its demands and tease out its nuances, provides yet more evidence that the more time passes, the more important Andrew Hill's recorded oeuvre becomes.
Personnel: Charles Tolliver: trumpet; Greg Tardy: tenor saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet; Andrew
Hill: piano; John Hebert: bass; Eric McPherson: drums.