472

Andrew Hill: Smoke Stack

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
Andrew Hill: Smoke Stack Emerging at the beginning of the '60s, Andrew Hill was always difficult to pigeonhole. The pianist was too aligned with mainstream harmony to be considered avant garde, too complex a writer to be considered free, too abstruse a player to be considered mainstream. The people at Blue Note knew they had a gem when they signed him. What they didn't know was that it would be decades before his value was truly appreciated.

But better late than never. Smoke Stack, the second of six Blue Note sessions recorded between November 1963 and February 1965, was the pianist's fourth release by the label. While Hill's other sessions from the time were equally challenging from a compositional perspective, Smoke Stack was the most inherently difficult to fathom. It eschewed the more traditional instrumentation of Black Fire (1963), Judgement! (1964) and Point of Departure (1965) in favor of a piano/two-bass/drums lineup that was likely too unorthodox, even for a label that wasn't particularly averse to the unconventional.

Hill's partners on this recording are bassists Richard Davis and Eddie Khan, along with drummer Roy Haynes, who also played on Black Fire. Other sessions from 1963-65 would feature different drummers, but Davis remained a constant throughout the period. Always a thinking man's bassist, Davis is at his most dominant on Smoke Stack, where Khan and Haynes assume the role of rhythmic anchor.

Unlike Ornette Coleman and John Coltrane, who had already used twin-bass lineups but typically buried them underneath one or more solo voice, Hill places Davis front and center alongside his own idiosyncratic playing. Even on the balladic "Verne," where Khan sits out, Haynes steadfastly maintains rhythmic consistency while Davis interacts more persistently with Hill. On "Wailing Wall," Haynes' prevalent cymbal work sets a precedent for drummers like Jon Christensen and Jack DeJohnette; Davis' out-front arco gives credence to the song's title.

Even on the semi-swinging "Ode to Von," where the harmonies feel mainstream, Hill's playing always skews things just the slightest bit off-kilter. But the tandem playing with Davis ensures an even greater elasticity—which sometimes feels as though it might actually fall apart completely if it weren't for the real rhythmic glue that Haynes provides to bind this quartet.

Looking back on Hill's emergence, it's remarkable how much he varied the contexts in which he worked. Smoke Stack may have been more of a challenge to listeners at the time, but today it stands out as one of Hill's most satisfying efforts, if only because of his remarkable interplay with Davis.


Track Listing: 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.

Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Blue Note Records | Style: Modern Jazz


Shop

More Articles

Read Road to Forever CD/LP/Track Review Road to Forever
by Jack Bowers
Published: February 27, 2017
Read Avenida Graham CD/LP/Track Review Avenida Graham
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 27, 2017
Read TAI Fest #1 (Vol.1&2) CD/LP/Track Review TAI Fest #1 (Vol.1&2)
by Nicola Negri
Published: February 27, 2017
Read Goat Man & The House of the Dead CD/LP/Track Review Goat Man & The House of the Dead
by Dave Wayne
Published: February 27, 2017
Read Backlog CD/LP/Track Review Backlog
by James Nadal
Published: February 27, 2017
Read Acceptance CD/LP/Track Review Acceptance
by Tyran Grillo
Published: February 26, 2017
Read "Beekman Vol. 02" CD/LP/Track Review Beekman Vol. 02
by Budd Kopman
Published: November 23, 2016
Read "#knowingishalfthebattle" CD/LP/Track Review #knowingishalfthebattle
by Mark F. Turner
Published: January 23, 2017
Read "The Outlier" CD/LP/Track Review The Outlier
by Mark Corroto
Published: July 16, 2016
Read "Protean Reality" CD/LP/Track Review Protean Reality
by John Sharpe
Published: June 22, 2016
Read "Left" CD/LP/Track Review Left
by John Sharpe
Published: November 22, 2016
Read "Wash My Horse In Champagne" CD/LP/Track Review Wash My Horse In Champagne
by James Nadal
Published: July 15, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: Jazz Near You | GET IT  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!