The five exclamation marks following the word Compulsion are completely appropriate for a title. Of all the distinguished albums of Andrew Hill's career as a pianist/composer, this is arguably the most passionately executed. The monumentality of this recording can best be realized by looking at its recording date of 1965. Coltrane was leaving his classic quartet and experimenting with multiple drummers. Archie Shepp was likewise experimenting with heavily augmented percussion sections. Art Blakey's earlier recordings with various African and neo-African drummers were popularly circulating in jazz circles, as was Babatunde Olatunji's popular and influential Drums of Passion. Into this drum-laden time stepped Hill.
What makes this album sound so fresh after decades is the consistently intricate and emotionally galvanizing interplay between Hill, his polyrhythmic rhythmic section, and the horns. John Gilmore, here on bass clarinet and tenor sax, always had an astute way of pushing Hill into playing at the top of his intelligence, making me believe that the best Hill recordings were those with Gilmore contributing. As for trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, this was the kind of session that also challenged him deeply, as his freely searching and scorching solo on "Premonition" illustrates.
As for Hill, you can sense that this was his moment of heeding Cecil Taylor's dictum that a piano consists of eighty-eight tuned drums. His percussive attack on the title track is a furiously rhapsodic soundtrack to the mid-1960s. The four compositions tend to run together with repeated listening as if this is one suite of sound and fury, with "Premonition" as a pensive, meditative interlude.
This long-overdue CD reissue helps heighten the presence of the superb contributions of bassist Cecil McBee, and drummers Joe Chambers, Nadi Qamar, and Renaud Simmons. I recall my original vinyl copy had a murky sounding smear of bass drum sounds, not that it stopped me from wearing out the grooves quickly. This recording is a core document of 1960s jazz.
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