Chicago-born pianist Andrew Hill (1931)
extended hard bop way beyond its original foundations.
Relocating to New York in 1962, Hill, formerly a student of classical composer Paul Hindemith, introduced a new degree of rhythmic and harmonic complexity on
Black Fire (november 1963), with
tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson, bassist Richard Davis and drummer Roy Haynes
unleashed in subdued, brainy compositions (often marked by Afro-Cuban accents) such as
Land Of Nod, Pumpkin, Subterfuge and Black Fire.
A similar rarefied quartet session, Smokestack (december 1963),
failed to muster the cohesiveness of the debut, but
Judgment (january 1964), a quartet session with vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson, bassist Richard Davis and drummer Elvin Jones, successfully merged hard bop with modal jazz and free jazz in six austere performances
(including Siete Ocho, Alfred, Yokada Yokada).
Hill's research program peaked with the more lively excursions of
Point of Departure (march 1964), accompanied by
Eric Dolphy on saxophone, clarinets and flute, Joe Henderson on saxophones,
Kenny Dorham on trumpet, Richard Davis on bass and Tony Williams on drums
The three longest tracks, Refuge, Spectrum and especially
New Monastery, were avantgarde within the tradition, an endless
reinvention of hard bop, an art of multi-horn chromatic embellishment and elusive tonality.
Yet another line-up (Sun Ra's tenor saxophonist John Gilmore, drummer Joe Chambers,
Hutcherson, Davis) returned to Hill's more abstract aesthetic on
Andrew (june 1964), another set of neurotic and ever-shifting pieces
that often achieve intense pathos (The Griots and Le Serpent Qui Danse).
The most daring of Hill's experiments was perhaps
Compulsion (october 1965), that contained four lengthy pieces
(Compulsion, Limbo, Legacy, Premonition )
for a septet including Gilmore, trumpeter Freddie Hubbard and three percussionists. This was as close to free jazz as Hill would ever get, as if the great
hard-bopper had finally exhausted the possibilities of the genre.
Alas, Hill's fortune was inversely proportional to his creativity.
Dance With Death (october 1968), not released until 1980, contained
several charming experiments (Partitions, Dance With Death, Love Nocturne) for trumpeter Charles Tolliver, saxophonist Joe Farrell, drummer Billy Higgins and bassist Victor Sproles,
Passing Ships (november 1969), rediscovered in 2001, was scored for jazz nonet
and bordered on third-stream music (especially Noon Tide).
Lift Every Voice (may 1969), for jazz quintet and operatic vocals, signaled
that Hill was ready to try his hand at classical music, which he did by composing an opera, string quartets and orchestral works.
Hill returned to jazz with the piano-bass-drums trio of Invitation (october 1974), and the sax-piano-bass-drums quartet of Blue Black (february 1975) and especially of the 25-minute Divine Revelation, off Divine Revelation (july 1975).
Hill also turned to solo piano music with the vignettes of Hommage (july 1975), the two side-long improvisations of From California With Love (october 1978), Bayside, off Faces of Hope (june 1980), and Verona Rag, off Verona Rag (july 1986).
But he finally resumed his journey through chamber jazz with
Eternal Spirit (january 1989), a quintet session with vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson and altoist Greg Osby,
But Not Farewell (september 1990), for a quintet with trombonist Robin Eubanks and Osby, that includes the free solo-piano improvisation Gone,
Dusk (october 1999), for a sextet with trumpet and two saxophones, containing some of his most elegant experiments (Dusk, Sept, 15/8).
While battling cancer, Hill released Time Lines (july 2005) for a quintet.
Hill died in 2007.
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