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Buck Hill: Relax

C. Michael Bailey By

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A recent review of a book by a 26-year-old author noted that the only problem with the work was that the author had "not lived long enough or suffered enough. This sentiment is easily extended to music. Give me a grizzled veteran from the chitlin' circuit instead of a Julliard graduate anytime. Washington DC Tenor saxophonist Buck Hill is eighty years old and has not recorded as a leader in fifteen years. There is certainly a story behind that, and I am sure it is a good one. On Relax Hill leads a tenor-guitar-organ outing reminiscent of 1950s blowing sessions. This music smells of cigarettes and scotch.

Leading his guitar-organ quartet, Hill splits his time equally between his original material and standards, three of which come from the book of Miles Davis. The disc opens with Hill's "RH Blues, and offers the listener a good look at his style and tone. It is altogether too easy to say that Hill's style possesses elements of Lester Young and Coleman Hawkins. No, Buck Hill is Buck Hill, the product of a million late night performances and early morning jam sessions. He certainly rubbed elbows with Young and Hawkins, as well as Ben Webster. Hill's tone is full and precise—no jonesing Gene Ammons here; Hill is straight-ahead.

"Relax is a loping stroll that features the whole band playing great ensemble jazz. The standard "Old Folks is a kick because of the Lawrence Welk organ and Hill's impeccable ballad style. Hill's quaint "Little Bossa and airy "Sad Ones bookend the saxophonist's mini-tribute to Miles Davis, featuring the post-Kind of Blue "Flamenco Sketches and "Prancing [sic] and the earlier, Charlie Parker-period "Milestones. Hill captures perfectly in his more "traditional manner the Davis lines, drawing the circuitous melodies into order with a brilliant beauty.

Buck Hill is not exactly a jazz household name. He is like a multitude of musicians whose spotlight was either brief or non-existent because of personal reasons or existing in the shadow of other, better-know musicians. But it is exactly these musicians that warrant a listening. They can sit down and perform anywhere, anytime, with or without practice. They are the superior entities of music.


Track Listing: RH Blues; Old Folks; Little Bossa; Flamenco Sketches; Prancing; Milestones; Sad Ones.

Personnel: Buck Hill: tenor saxophone; John Ozment: Hammond A100; Paul Pieper: guitar; Jerry Jones: drums.

Title: Relax | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Severn Records


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