The three discs that comprise this fascinating box set reissue capture pianist Andrew Hill at a unique time in his tumultuous career. After a series of successes for Blue Note in the '60s, Hilla man as elusive as his inscrutable musicin essence disappeared from the New York scene, taking a teaching position upstate and playing, as he states in the liner notes from an album of the period, "in rural America. Hill's decision in 1976 to move to California in order to care for his ailing wife completed his slow withdrawal from the East Coast and sent his life and career on a entirely new path.
Recorded in three sessions in Berkeley California in the late summer and fall of 1978, the solo performances that comprise Mosaic Select 23 present the visionary pianist/composer in a new light. Gone are the driving rhythm sections, fiery soloists and dense ensemble writing that characterized his earlier output; this is Andrew Hill unrefined: emotional, hypnotic, cerebral. Tracks run longaveraging about twelve minutesand find Hill improvising with incredible emotion and freedom. Themes and melodies appear and reappear amid dense voicings and sharp dissonances, but throughout, Hill maintains a stream-of-consciousness approach.
"Pastoral Pittsburg is vast and impressionistic, featuring Hill's distinctive runs and pedal sustains before he injects a hint of down-home blues six minutes in. It's almost imperceptible at first, but Hill continues to play with it, transforming and disguising it amid the pastoral scene. This is Hill's MO throughout the entire album. With titles like "From California With Love, "Above Big Sur and "Moonlit Monterey, it's clear that Hill was inspired by his new surroundings and his performances seem, in a way, to represent a coming to terms with himself in his new environment. Hill's blues roots run deepwhether in New York or "Pastoral Pittsburg and they color every landscape he renders.
A few familiar standards show up and are brilliantly reworked by Hill's vivid imagination. "Gone with the Wind is immense and inspired, featuring jolting lines and boomy countermelodies. Hill is positively joyous, taking raucous pleasure in transforming the familiar harmonies and adding a stuttering, wry air to his melodic lines. For all this, Hill is most inspired on the pieces he was debuting in this solo recording. It was the beginning of a new chapter in his life and the music reflects every bit of that excitement and emotion. It is the passionate, inspired performance of a man whose winding personal path has never strayed from the artistically sound.
CD1: Moonlit Monterey; 17 Mile Drive; Gone With The Wind; I Remember Clifford; Moonlit Monterey (alt). CD2: California Tinge; Napa Valley Twilight; Above Big Sur; An Afternoon In Berkeley; California Tinge (alt). CD3: From California With Love; Reverend Du Bop; Pastoral Pittsburg; Pittsburg Impasse.