Andrew Hill: Compulsion (1965) Blue Note

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Selection: Premonition

Artists

Freddie Hubbard (tpt, flgh) John Gilmore (ts, bclar) Andrew Hill (p) Cecil McBee and/or Richard Davis (b) Joe Chambers (d) Nadi Qamar (African drums, African thumb piano) Renaud Simmons (congas) recorded Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, October 8, 1965

Context:

19651965: All Change! All Change! The assassination of Malcolm X,  civil rights marches on Selma, Alabama, the Watts Riots, The Beatles play Shea Stadium, Bob Dylan “goes electric”, Mary Poppins takes five Oscars…

Lady-Penelope-from-Thunde-007But it wasn’t all bad. Sci-fi  puppet adventure Thunderbirds debuted on British television. We all politely ignored the strings, agreeing to suspend disbelief. In return we were rewarded with exciting new role-models, geek-chic Brains, posh-tottie Lady Penelope and chauffeur, butler, class-system token, Parker, who alone at International Rescue had a proper job.

Public taste in music turned increasingly to pop, rock and soul as record companies addressed the prime interests of the new teenage audience: dating, dancing, and draft-dodging. Jazz would have to go its own way, driven only by the personal vision of individual artists.

Music

At the mid-point of the decade, Compulsion continued Andrew Hill’s further progression into the avant-garde. Featuring a percussion-heavy octet including two additional percussionists on African drums, it offers an uncompromising vision of shifting tonal colors and tangents, underpinned by an African rhythm pulse. In the selected track, Premonition, the rhythmic repetition of the African drums contrasts with Hill’s dissonant (American/ European?) piano, a political metaphor for what he saw as the intersection of two cultures. Or may be I’m over-interpreting.

Hill bolsters his credentials with the inclusion of John Gilmore – prior to Gilmore’s long-term move to Saturn. Gilmore strays onto bass clarinet, and Hubbard makes the occasional swap from trumpet to flugelhorn, maintaining the provocative sonic melange. Combine all this with two bass players on one track, and a total five exclamation marks in the title, you have all the necessary ingredients for a “far out” session.

The track titles – Compulsion, Legacy, Premonition and Limbo – represent Hill’s narrative on the afro-american experience, reflecting on the civil rights issues of the day, significantly, ending not in Resolution but in Limbo. Who needs stories with a happy ending anyway? As is often the case, the composers intentions are not necessary for an appreciation of the music, which stands iconoclastic, on its own. You either like it or you don’t, or are not sure if you like it.

Depending on your point of view, Hill is an antidote to be-bop clichés, or  a reminder why you feel more at home with be-bop “clichés”. Even if it’s not your thing, it still counts towards your five-records-a-day healthy listening allowance. And that is good for you.

Vinyl: BLP 4217 NY labels no ear, VAN GELDER stamp, mono.

The 1st pressing, by Liberty (I am confident on this one, rainmakers!)

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Collectors Corner

Source: eBay

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………………….

A record  stamped audition copy previously owned by someone called Ira. Ira Gitler? Nothing is impossible. It is challenging music and seems to turn up not infrequently on record shop shelves. According to Popsike, an autographed copy coincidentally also stamped “Audition Copy”,  recently fetched several hundred dollars.

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Hill left a long legacy of challenging music,  I still prefer Hill’s earlier less-challenging work, low-calorie avant-garde: challenge-lite. A forthcoming post will test the more adventurous still. Cecil Taylor, I’ll say no more.

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23 thoughts on “Andrew Hill: Compulsion (1965) Blue Note

  1. Because (say it quietly) I have just bought myself a new CD player after a good few years without one, I am rediscovering what amounts to a second library of jazz on CD — one that exists in a sort of parallel universe to my LP collection and which has never received anything like the concerted listen most of my LPs have. Hence, this, along with CHANGE, the Mosaic Select of unissued material, and the later works, such as DUSK and TIMELINES have all been amongst this weekend’s listening.

    Leaving aside for a moment the problems I am having I adapting again to CD listening (loud, long), the Hill listening exercise has been instructive.

    It is sad but true that there is a good reason generally speaking why the unissued stuff stayed unissued at the time it was recorded. With the exception of Dance with Death — which is superb by any standards — much of the other stuff was technically imperfect and lacked musical coherence. CHANGE, for example, is a real hotchpotch-pothead, although it has some good stuff on it. COMPULSION by contrast, is musically and thematically coherent. It may not be your cup of tea but it hangs together; it works as a whole.

    Next up — and I have never played all of this — the Mosaic Select of the solo piano work. I have all of the LPs this work was issued on, but that still leaves an awful lot of piano to hear…

    And the CD player? A necessary evil, I concluded. I could either shut up and buy one or condemn myself to having a secondary collection of jazz — most if not all of it available in no other form — that I could not listen to. And that’s seemed to be cutting off my nose to spite my face….

    And Gilmore on bass clarinet is a great pleasure…

    • a second library, yes. I decided to move my whole cd Jazz library into my office, leaving vinyl at home. as I enter my office at 9 and stay there till 6, I’ve a lot of time to HEAR, not LISTEN, but I had some surprises ’cause I had never listened to cd’s at home. I’ve got more than 2000 so I’ll need some years to have a touch with ’em all. as written in a recent post I find some interesting record/musician which I was not aware of.anyway if my interest is high, I search for the original vinyl (see recent Yusef Lateef post). I agree with unissued material: the interest is seldom high, for me too. another recent discovery from the evil silver disk is Miles Davis’ unissued Japanese concerts from 1964, the ones with Sam Rivers. only one record with Sam (Tokyo concert on Japanese Columbia).

      • Gentlemen, we are all forced, by necessity or convenience, to sometimes follow the evil path. Any record for which there is desire but no prospect of an affordable original nor an adequate vinyl alternative, the Silver Disk is permissible.

        As for convenience, I can not recommend driving with a turntable balanced on your knees. There are many circumstances where the convenience of digital can not be denied.

        However I do worry about CD players. I moved to streamed FLAC (of course ripped from CD) because an “audiophile” streamer does serve up sound something closer to vinyl quality, though still short. And playlist control from the sofa delivers a whole lot of convenience.

        However you are on probation. Any stuff like “CD sounds better” will be swiftly dealt with.

        • I should have guessed LJC would be on duty. Well, I guess someone has to police the frontiers. (Oh dear, I think I may – albeit with heavy qualification – have broken the “it sounds better” rule.)

          Anyway, for the occasional jazz cd that can’t be got any other way I suspect I shall remain happy with this little Marantz player – I don’t see myself ever getting sufficiently interested for all that rip-my-FLACS-off stuff… I was reading up on all that streaming audiophile stuff a bit and decided it would be preferable and probably easier to just got deaf….or cut my ears off….

          Right now Paul Bley improvising on a Bosendorfer Imperial, and God it does sound good. But that perhaps is as much to do with ECM’s relentless pursuit of perfect piano recording techniques as it does the peerless Bley. (Solo in Mondsee, by the way – I just bought it for a few quid – a discard as it happens from Dudley Music Library. Hmm, now that sentence holds a whole history….

          Yes, I hear someone saying (oh, it’s me), but is it jazz?

        • I’ve clearly stated that, not only I had never listened to most of my CD’s (and here the surprises/suggestions), but I do not like them at all. they don’t even have the smell every serious collector likes to feel while listening.
          some are useful to complete a certain musician: i.e. Albert Ayler Holy Ghost, 10 (ten) CD’s, book and memorabilia, never played; others are useful for convenience, as LJC underlined; others, live concerts, never appeared on vinyl.
          I’ve 2158 of them, from Adams to Zorn: maybe, but I’m not quite sure, I’ve listened to 10% until now. and not one has driven me mad.

          • Dott, I’m amazed you can be so precise with figures – 2158. From Adams to Zorn. And all points in between. Does that mean they are all catalogued – though not played? If so, that’s a scary thought… I have now moved on to the Mosaic select Andrew Hill solo. But I think it might have to come off so I can return for one more burst of Sam Rivers’ CONTRASTS….

            • actually they are more than 2158, as I count multiples as 1.they are all catalogued as my LP’s in alphabetical order. being an optimist, I hope to live for some more decades (!!!) so I’ll have the chance to listen to them all. in the meanwhile I’m working on the illustrated catalogue of all my vinyl, took pics of ALL covers, labels and booklets. it’s a titanic effort I hope to complete in a couple of months and it will be available for anyone interested in havin’ a look. ALL vinyl has been carefully listened at least once.

              • I’m guessing that your endeavour will meet considerable approval on this blog, dott. Just need to work out a way of getting ’em all to pay a Euro or two per view – PayPal, perhaps 🙂

      • Ah, the Miles in Tokyo set with Sam Rivers — marvellous stuff. Strictly speaking not “unissued” — it came out on CBS on a double set (Tokyo and Berlin) called Heard Round the World….although I bet the CD version contains more.

        I share your view that generally ‘less is more’, or certainly less is enough. Except one of the things I played today was Monk’s Live at the It Club set, which I had also had on a 1982 LP for years…. But the Sony Legacy version is twice as long. It doesn’t just restore lost tracks and drum and bass solos that were deleted to meet the constraints of LP format, it restores a whole, living Monk gig. And it massively improves the sound quality. This was one of those rare instances where the CD trumped the old vinyl copy and I’ll keep it instead of he records.

        Oh, and while on the subject of Sam Rivers, I wholeheartedly recommend the record of his that ECM has just reissued — Contrasts, with Dave Holland, the great avant trombonist George Lewis, and perhaps Rivers’ most sympathetic percussionist (after Altschul), Thurman Barker. I picked up an original LP just a few weeks back and have only gradually been acquainting myself with it. It isn’t just that it’s a great ECM record, it may well be of Rivers’ best.

        • need a check but I’m pretty sure that every track is completely unissued: Berlin and Tokyo are different so, if you like Rivers with Miles, you’d have to take a listen to this double CD too.

          • the only known Rivers’ recording with Miles is Miles in Tokyo, reprinted together with Berlin concert (Shorter on tenor) on Heard ‘Round the World. originals are Japan CBS Sony 60064 and German CBS 62976.
            The Unissued Japanese Concerts refers to Tokyo concerts held July 12 and 15, 1964. the original vinyl from July 14, 1964.
            they are 40:36 and 45: 32 minutes long.
            no other Rivers’ recordings with Mles are known.

        • The It Club set has been made available most recently as a current Mosaic boxset, which recreates the whole session, restored from original tapes, rather than that ’80’s double which I also had and disliked.

          I don’t know what the complete session sounds like on CD, but I found the “audiophile” 180 gm Mosaic boxset a disappointment. It seems a lot of the engineers efforts went into micro-adjustments to volumes as Rouse wandered away from the recording microphone a lot.

          It sounds like too many modern audiophile – wooden – too much digital processing and correction has killed off the underlying dynamic recording qualities, collateral damage.

          I have to watch what I say, today I bought a modern Gearbox release, dated 2011, Ronnie Scott and Phil Seaman combos, BBC recordings from ’60’s. I wonder what I’ll find?

          • Yes, I have read the reviews of the Mosaic It Club remaster and while I haven’t heard the recording itself the reviews don’t attract me. It does seem that much effort went into correcting the balance on Rouse’s sax as he wandered off-mic — but in fact this isn’t a problem that is overt (or intrusively) apparent on the Sony Legacy remaster of the late-90s.

  2. I have the Mono. Love it on the mono Lenco with Denon mono cart. I love this phase when hard bop moves to avant garde. exciting music

  3. Terrific. But no ‘envy rating’? You can stick on a ten from me. This is one of the Blue Note HIlls missing from my collection. My representation is better throughout the 70s, 870s and early 90s — in fact, I have picked up some real gems over the past year or so, and cheaply, because for the most part Hill’s non-BN records don’t seem to be wanted all that much by anyone else.

  4. This record was made in 1965, seven to eight years into the stereo age. There were, of course, lots of mono record players still in use at that time, and it was for those customers that mono releases were produced. But considering all the “African“ percussion & drums & thumbs in action, listening to this kind of music in mono in the year 2013 just won’t do, except for those whose religion is MONO. I strongly recommend the stereo version, i.e. the Rudy Van Gelder Edition.

  5. I’m not sure whether I prefer this or Andrew!! (only two exclamation marks I think), in fact I love them both.
    Brilliant post, which has inspired me to reach to the shelf, and just as soon as this Gerald Wilson album has finished, I’m going to put Compulsion on to the deck.

  6. I’ve enjoyed the “how far ‘out’ do you like it” discussions here. There is an impossible-to-define line somewhere on the hard-bop-to-new-thing continuum that is the dividing break for me (and I would guess many other listeners). Always enjoyable to try and figure out where a challenging record may fall on it.

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