Of Blue Note's triumvirate of '60s pianists, Andrew Hill will always be overshadowed by Horace Silver and Herbie Hancock, if only for coming last. Recent new albums and reissues by Hill make a strong case for his music to be studied in jazz schools alongside "Song for My Father and "Maiden Voyage .
Three albums capture Hill in his remarkably creative period after fully investing himself as a leader in 1963. The albums presented here, Smokestack, Andrew!!! and Pax, were recorded between December 1963 and February 1965. Smokestack and Andrew!!! have been reissued before but now get the RVG and Connoisseur edition treatments. Pax though is available now for the first time on CD away from Hill's Mosaic boxset. Apart from the main attraction - Hill's writing - these albums are compelling for the chance to hear Blue Note mainstays like Bobby Hutcherson, Joe Henderson and Freddie Hubbard as sidemen on complicated music. Also, any chance to hear John Gilmore away from Sun Ra should be seized (though Hill's Compulsion might be a better choice). For those who appreciate bass playing, Hill has chosen the best in Richard Davis, who appears on all three discs and was Hill's main bassist for the Blue Note era.
On all three albums, there is a wealth of cerebral material that in many ways presages much of today's modern jazz composing (including Hill's of course). Unlike Point of Departure and Compulsion, with their dense instrumentation, these discs are Hill at an almost accessible level, leading fairly standard jazz groups. However, songs like Smokestack's title track, "The Griots from Andrew!!! and most of the almost classically formed Pax are far from typical jazz fare. Throughout Hill's love of sparseness and ability to change feels through advanced comping harmonies are fully in place.
Guitarist Nels Cline's New Monastery is a good omen for Hill's music to receive more investigation. The material is drawn from Hill's '60s Blue Note catalogue, mainly from the larger ensemble works (there are also two originals), presented either discretely or in medley format. There is no piano and Hill never recorded with either accordion or guitar but the lead section of Bobby Bradford's cornet and Ben Goldberg's clarinets is quirky enough to honor Hill's vision. Some tunes are taken in a recognizable way while others (particularly the ones in the medleys) are given a very open treatment. What is most important in Hill's composing is the layering of instruments and Cline's arrangements are successful in this regard. Perhaps the modern setting will bring new listeners to Hill but they will find that his music as recorded is still very much relevant.
Tracks and Personnel
Tracks: Smoke Stack; The Day After; Wailing Wall; Ode to Von; Not So; Verne; 30 Pier Avenue; Smoke Stack (Alternate Take); The Day After (Alternate Take); Ode to Von (Alternate Take); Not So (Alternate Take).
Personnel: Andrew Hill: piano; Richard Davis: bass; Eddie Khan: bass; Roy Haynes: drums.
Tracks: The Griots; Black Monday; Duplicity; Le Serpent Qui Danse; No Doubt; Symmetry; The Griots (alternate take); Symmetry (alternate take).
Personnel: John Gilmore: tenor sax; Andrew Hill: piano; Bobby Hutcherson: vibraphone; Richard Davis: bass; Joe Chambers: drums.
Tracks: Eris; Pax; Calliope; Euterpe; Erato; Roots 'N' Herbs; Euterpe [alternate take]
Personnel: Joe Chambers: drums; Richard Davis: bass; Joe Henderson: tenor sax; Andrew Hill; piano; Freddie Hubbard: cornet
Tracks: McNeil Island/Pumpkin; Not Sa No Sa; No Doubt/11/8/Dance With Death; Yokada Yokada/The Rumproller; Dedication; Reconciliation/New Monastery; Compulsion.
Personnel: Bobby Bradford: cornet; Ben Goldberg: clarinets; Andrea Parkins: accordion, effects; Devin Hoff: bass; Scott Amendola: drums, percussion; Nels Cline: guitar, effects; Alex Cline: percussion (5,7).