Selection: Black Monday (Hill)
John Gilmore (tenor saxophone) Bobby Hutcherson (vibraphone) Andrew Hill (piano) Richard Davis (bass) Joe Chambers (drums) Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, June 25, 1964
Possibly Hill’s most interesting Blue Note in which extended solo’s are embedded in a quintet setting. Hot John Gilmore, Cool Bobby Hutcherson, conceptual Joe Chambers, lyrical Richard Davis, the ensemble creates a supporting canvas over which Hill cascades of descending notes, fragments of melody, restless shifting tunes partly formed, dense polychromatic chords and unpredictable rhythmic twists and turns. Andrew!!!
Hutcherson is an extension of Hill’s keyboard, taking over the role of “accompanying” , while Davis scampers over the upper register of the upright bass, briefly taking the foreground, only to step back into the shadows of the ensemble. Gilmore captures the spirit, not the place for virtuoso tenor solo but measured big notes of contrasting texture to Hill’s ivory flights. My admiration for Joe Chambers continues to grow, his sensitive, probing, percussive accents, colours and washes, in the league of Anthony Williams.
Each member of the quintet add to the musical spiders web, holding each other together, their contributions personally inspired rather than scripted, giving it all an organic quality. Your task is simply to follow and absorb as much of the creation as you can.
Hill’s music is difficult to classify because it is original. It’s not like others, the usual way we categorise things, through comparison. It is complex and structured, but with space for invention on the fly, and not simultaneous “free improvisation” or random. It is more intellectually exploratory rather than emotionally driven. You can marvel at its beauty. It’s not like Cecil Taylor, whose music succeeds in avoiding melody rhythm and harmony by dissolving before anything of substance like a tune can take shape. There are tunes in Hill, not always obvious, they take persistence to draw out.
Hill is not “far out” , he doesn’t tear up the rules so much as create his own. He is accessible, though not an open door, you have to push. We like Andrew Hill at LJC, I have said why. Anyone, any thoughts, feel free.
John Fordham’s sensitive 2007 obituary of Hill is as rounded a view of the man and his music as you are likely to find, read it for yourself here.
Vinyl: BNST 84203 Stereo Division of Liberty, VAN GELDER stamp, 134 gram vinyl.
Released by Liberty in 1968, four years after it was recorded, technically the 1st issue was a mono radio-station promo, but effectively this is the first commercial stereo release, (picking my words carefully). Call me out.
The choice of cover photo is an audacious rebranding of Hill – out with the cerebral intense serious artist face, in with smiling and easy-going, boy next door charm Hey Andy my friend, lets all go to the movies! – as unlikely a portrayal of the music within as you will find on a record sleeve. The photo and design is attributed to Reid Miles, so unlike his signature chiaroscuro style, the sort of photo Hill’s mum would probably choose, so we must assume it is of serious intent. (Contrarians arise: I really like it!™)
Completists might want to track down the OOP Mosaic of Hill’s entire Blue Note catalogue on vinyl. It has everything, including the beige twofer One on One material, posted here on LJC eighteen months ago. I have to say, if I saw the Mosaic I would snap it up, if only for the “serious music” cover.
Shrink or no shrink? That is the question.
Normally I say no to the shrink: it’s done its’ job, protecting the jacket over fifty years, thank you so much, now we can all enjoy the jacket as new, off with the shrink. You can see in the photos how the shrink has a tight grip on the corners, bending them round. It is a late ’60s shrink, rather elastic, holding on to the cover for grim death, unlike the early inert cellophane shrinks, which you can slip off, save in one piece and reinstate if you wished.
However this record cost me a premium over what it was worth because the word Shrink! Collectors get everyone excited at the thought of a mint cover. It’s just one step short of Sealed!! Just sealed on three sides instead of four. Moreover it’s a Liberty cover from 1967. There is no beautiful laminated cover to reveal, just a flat matt Liberty jacket. The shrink actually adds a glossy tactile element the cover.
So shame about the reflections in the photo, price you pay.. the shrink stays. If you don’t like it, don’t look.