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Andrew Hill: Passing Ships

C. Andrew Hovan By

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Along with Sam Rivers and Archie Shepp, pianist Andrew Hill remains one of the few viable avant-garde musicians of his generation to continue to make an impact on the current jazz scene. Last year's critically acclaimed A Beautiful Day offered more proof than anything that Hill was still championing his post hard bop style while allowing his music to gain further breath and scope through his adventurous charts for a large ensemble.

In many ways the seeds that bloomed fully on A Beautiful Day could have actually been planted back in 1969, when the pieces assembled for Passing Ships were recorded. One of Blue Note producer Alfred Lion's favorite artists, Hill documented his music prolifically for the label and over the years the rumors have been flying in regards to a slew of unissued material still in the vaults. Such is the case with this newly uncovered music featuring a nine-piece unit including Woody Shaw, Joe Farrell, Julian Priester, and Lenny White (making his recording debut).

The seven Hill originals that make up this recital cover a great deal of ground, with a premium put on colorful arrangements making sagacious use of Howard Johnson's tuba and Bob Northern's French horn. Joe Farrell breaks out an arsenal of woodwinds too, his English horn on the title track mixing well with muted brass and deep bass tones on this modal gem. 'Plantation Bag' even goes for a funky strut not unlike the type of boogaloo lines that were popular at the time. 'Noon Tide' might be the showpiece here though, with alto flute contributing to a moody vibe not unlike Hill's 'Catta' from Bobby Hutcherson's Dialogue.

Inexplicably locked in the vaults for the past 24 years, this music's time has come and Passing Ships might just be the find of the year.


Track Listing: Sideways, Passing Ships, Plantation Bag, Noon Tide, The Brown Queen, Cascade, Yesterday's Tomorrow

Personnel: Woody Shaw & Dizzy Reece (trumpet), Julian Priester (trombone), Bob Northern (French horn), Howard Johnson (tuba, bass clarinet), Joe Farrell (woodwinds), Andrew Hill (piano), Ron Carter (bass), Lenny White (drums)

Title: Passing Ships | Year Released: 2003 | Record Label: Blue Note Records


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