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This reissue contains not only Hill’s original LP, but also a previously unreleased session from four months prior. On this earlier session, an entirely different lineup plays three of the tunes from Grass Roots, along with two numbers from deep within the vault — "MC," a tribal 12/8 blues, and "Love Nocturne," an angular quasi-ballad. Thanks to the juxtaposition of the two sessions, we are afforded a rare treat: a chance to listen closely to the stylistic contrasts between Lee Morgan and Woody Shaw, Booker Ervin and Frank Mitchell, Ron Carter and Reggie Workman, and Freddie Waits and Idris Muhammad. (Guitarist Jimmy Ponder also appears on three of the five new tracks.) We also get to hear what these different lineups bring out in Hill, both as a pianist and a composer.
On the whole, Grass Roots is "inside" compared to Hill’s more representative Blue Note masterpiece, Point of Departure. "Venture Inward" and "Bayou Red" are the most advanced pieces, while the calypso "Mira" and the boogaloo "Soul Special" traverse more familiar Blue Note terrain. The title track, with its deliberately square melody, is an excellent sample of Hill’s fractured, fragmented style.
The alternate takes and new tracks are less energetic, although Woody Shaw sounds more in his element than does Lee Morgan. And whereas Booker Ervin cooks a variegated stew containing traces of Trane, Dexter, and Johnny Griffin, Frank Mitchell sounds almost like a carbon copy of Wayne Shorter. Ponder’s tasty licks are in the style of early Pat Martino.
Tracks: 1. Grass Roots 2. Venture Inward 3. Mira 4. Soul Special 5. Bayou Red 6. MC 7. Venture Inward (alt.) 8. Soul Special (alt.) 9. Bayou Red (alt.) 10. Love Nocturne
Personnel, 1-5: Lee Morgan, trumpet; Booker Ervin, tenor saxophone; Andrew Hill, piano; Ron Carter, bass; Freddie Waits, drums
Personnel, 6-10: Woody Shaw, trumpet; Frank Mitchell, tenor saxophone; Andrew Hill, piano; Jimmy Ponder, guitar; Reggie Workman, bass; Idris Muhammad, drums
Jazz is a continuing revelation. The best show I ever attended was the
Roots Picnic at Penn's Landing in Philadelphia, or was it Robert
Glasper's Experiment at Lincoln Center, or was it Chick Corea with
Brian Blade at Oberlin College? Most of all I enjoy playing guitar and
composing beats with my Brooklyn-based group Space Captain.