Andrew Hill: Invitation (1974) Steeplechase

Andrew-Hill-Invitation-1974-frontcover-1800-LJC

Selection: Morning Flower (320 kbps MP3)

Artists

Andrew Hill (piano) Chris White (bass) Art Lewis (drums) recorded October 17, 1974, Minot Studio Copenhagen Denmark , engineer Ron Caran

Music

Whatever happened to Andrew Hill? ask the liner notes to this Steeplechase recording from 1974, remarking Hill’s absence from the recording studio since 1969. Like several jazz leading lights of the ’60s “life after Blue Note”, Hill moved from performance to the relative security of academic tenure,  recording intermittently, mainly for European labels like Steeplechase, Soul Note, Freedom and Palmetto,  until the final curtain fell in 2007

We like Hill here at LJC, with his unusual combination of chromatic, modal, and  free improvisation. With Hill you expect the unexpected, but without the calculated free-fall of Cecil Taylor as he ventures into unknown territory, straying out of tempo while retaining precise control of composition and harmonics.

In the select piece, Morning Flower, a simple phrase is elevated to an iconic  theme before embarking on various sonic explorations, including classical allusions and I swear, the  cascading notes of the rhumba cubano. Percussionist Chris White simmers and splashes, rim-shot accents at will, whilst White’s bass holds the ground and maintains the pulse, bubbling underneath. A pure delight.

Vinyl: Steeplechase SCS 1026 stereo

A Danish Steeplechase rather than the Dutch, which I find lesser pressings, though still very acceptable.

Andrew-Hill-Invitation-1974-Labels-1800-LJC_2

Andrew-Hill-Invitation-1974-rearcover-1800-LJC

Collector’s Corner

Neglected record in a suburban store, where none of the passing trade saw anything beyond the pensive portrait of an unknown figure on a little known label, and some dudes in shonky hats.

This Andrew Hill Steeplechase was made in Denmark.  I had the opportunity recently to compare a couple of copies of the same titles on Steeplechase, some made in Denmark, some in Holland. I found little sense in what I saw. Different label printers, different pressing plants, different years of production, slightly different sonics between the same title. No discernible pattern, other than the lack of pattern.

Steeplechase-variations-4-labels

Nils Winthur is to be admired for his commitment to maintaining the Steeplechase label, and there was probably a whole business side to getting European vinyl pressed as an independent jazz label in the late ’70s and early ’80s of which we are unaware. It is thanks to European labels like Steeplechase, Soul Note and Enja that we have any recordings from these ’60s alumni of Jazz, a lasting legacy created by determined individuals who swam against the commercial flow. And just in time, on vinyl, before the encroachment of digital technology and the evil silver disc.

Not all forward movement is progress. Even the hats looked better then.

9 thoughts on “Andrew Hill: Invitation (1974) Steeplechase

  1. Well, until I am favoured with a Steeplechase LP, the CD will have to do (actually, it doesn’t sound too bad). What a terrific – and utterly neglected – set this is.

  2. Love Andrew Hill. Like Booker Ervin (and unlike some of their more famous contemporaries), he didn’t put a foot wrong as far as I’m concerned, not a duff album, probably not a duff track in his entire career. Probably helped by the fact he wasn’t overly prolific, but we should all follow that lead – if you have nothing more to say, shut up.

    • Its a label I’ve generally passed on , but recently I acquired one for interest and its pretty acceptable, certainly nowhere as bad as I feared. There are a few of these US specialist labels around late Seventies I think, like Muse, Xanadu and Inner City which are actually OK but tarred with the same brush as the majors around this time. If the music looks interesting, they are cheap enough to take for a spin.

  3. Huh. I wagged a day out of the office today and have been playing Miles and Ornette and CEcil Taylor. Everything was going swimmingly, and then I log on here to find LJC boasting about one of the relatively few Hills I am missing. Every silver lining has a cloud.

    On a completely unrelated note — but I’ll post it here in the hope that some who are interested might see it — Jimmy Giuffre’s marvellous FUSION and THESIS, reissued by ECM as 1961, a double album and the only non-original recording the German label has ever reissued, is again available in the most beautifully produced package on double 180gm vinyl, complete with the wonderfully evocative black and white photography from the recording session. I happened to see it recently and jumped at it.

  4. Problem with writing from memory is that memory can be faulty. Morning Glory of course is a flower, where the crossed wire came from. Correct title Morning Flower it is. Great thing about the internet, it contains its own fact-checker. Make a mistake and someone will quickly point it out!

  5. Thanks for posting Little Flower (I think Morning Glory was the album that Andrew Hill cut with Oasis several years later). I enjoyed listening to it. Whilst I’m aware of Andrew Hill’s reputation, he isn’t represented in my collection, other than as a sideman on several recordings that I visit from time to time.

  6. They look more like Marvin Gaye’s backing band rather than jazz musicians….nothing a trip to the barbers & a good suit couldn’t put right though.

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