Andrew Hill: Judgement! (1964) Blue Note

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Selection: Judgement (Hill)

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Bonus selection (Countdown to Christmas!) : Yokada Yokada  (Hill)

Hill showing he can play in the grand melodic/rhythmic piano manner, but with a subversive twist.

Artists:

Bobby Hutcherson (vibraphone) Andrew Hill (piano) Richard Davis (bass) Elvin Jones (drums) recorded Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, January 8, 1964

Music

In the short space of seven months Andrew Hill recorded five albums for Blue Note:

4151  Black Fire                Nov 9,  63       Henderson/Davis/Haynes
4160  Smoke Stack         Dec 13, 63+      Khan & Davis/Haynes
4159  Judgment!                 Jan 8, 64       Hutcherson/Davis/Jones
4167  Point of Departure  Mar 21, 64       Dolphy/Dorham/Henderson/Davis/Williams
4203  Andrew!                  Jun 25, 64        Hutcherson/Gilmore/Davis/Chambers

Judgement! was chronologically the third session, but they are all so closely linked in time they share the same point in Hill’s artistic development, differing only in the choice of players and size of the ensemble, musicians as ingredients in a sort of Musical Masterchef.

PC-LJC-fastshow22MasterchefBeginning with the quartets and working up to sextet and quintet, the common ingredient is Richard Davis, whose provides a supple and inventive bass to offset Hill’s introspective and complex piano creations. The drums add heat and spice in varying proportion – Haynes: rhythmic polished solid, Jones: more assertive and muscular, Williams: dazzling intricate complex,  Chambers: the post-bop drummer of choice, comfortable with the “uncomfortable”, knowing where to go when no-one else does.

The mains among the five LP dishes are either meat (Henderson or Gilmore on horns) or fish (Hutcherson on vibraphone). For dessert, I can recommend anything from the sweet trolley.

These thoughts, or something like them, must have been on Hill’s mind. Leader of all the sessions, with Alfred Lion granting him free choice of sidemen and studio time, the artistic decisions were all his to make. Five albums in seven months shows how much Lion believed in Andrew Hill, though Andrew! was shelved for fear of saturation, but is a delight in itself with its audacious blend of both Gilmore and Hutcherson.

On Judgement!, Hill’s piano jousts with the ethereal vibraphone of Bobby Hutcherson, contrasting textures and angular, elongated lines. Is it a Hill album or a Hutcherson album? Does it matter?  Richard Davis and Elvin Jones  are active protagonists too, in a complex interplay of musical directions, though Hill remains first among equals. Allmusic puts it in focus:

Hill subverts hard bop structure and brings in rhythmic and harmonic elements from modal jazz and the avant-garde… complex, fluctuating between dissonant chords and nimble, melodic improvisations.

This is a million miles from popular formats like be-bop, soul jazz, big band, or Hollywood strings and west coast sunshine. The Sidewinder Sisters in shift-dresses have retired  to the bathroom to pick over their current man-troubles. Hill’s music sits out in the cerebral, intellectual corner of listening music. It highlights the courageous vision of Alfred Lion to lead rather than follow, and keep leading when the followers must have been  few and far between. As people have already commented, it took a lot of Three Sounds and Jimmy Smith album sales to fund one Andrew Hill.

Vinyl: BN 4159 Blue Note

After all the recent reissues and overseas pressings and stereo editions at LJC, a Blue Note original in mono seemed long overdue.

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Liner Notes: readable and interesting liner notes by Leonard Feather, rendered in LJC Super-Sharp ™ text.

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Collector’s Corner

After long periods of listening to seductive, silky, perfectly engineered full-stage stereo, it was a necessary shock to be reminded how powerful room-filling Blue Note original mono presentation can be. Well suited to the small-group format of acoustic instruments, suspended in space, it has a power in its own right. Crank up the volume a little, and you are in the centre of a universe unknown and unimaginable to almost everyone you know.

This was one of my first Blue Note purchases on Ebay. I recall many days nail-biting wait, as the seller was based in Croatia, which around had not long emerged from the break up of Yugoslavia. The good news was that it eventually arrived without problem. If I had any sense I would not have bid because of the sellers location, but fortunately, at the time, I had no sense at all. Ignorance is Strength.

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7 thoughts on “Andrew Hill: Judgement! (1964) Blue Note

  1. Hi LJC!
    Great music! An audio Question: Listening on headphones the presentation is true mono. There is nothing outside far left or right like surface noise or clicks etc.
    Is the record playbacked with a mono cartridge or stereo and perhaps later mono-ized? Summoned to mono by cabling as described before?

  2. For me, Hill is the epitome of serious jazz. Apart from miles Davis I have more Andrew Hill records than any other artist. I am currently listening to his solo work from the late 1970’s on Mosaic Select. Fantastic.

    • I second your view of the Mosaic Select solo sets. I listen to them frequently. My only reservation is that there is too much there to appreciate and they often send me back in preference to the Artists House original LPs — much shortened, of course, but also much easier to absorb at a sitting. VERONA RAG on Soul Note is a classic too and yesterday I just came across the solo performances recorded for a mid-2000s US TV show (sorry — the details are not in front of me). If you search for ‘andrew hill dvd’ you’ll find the recording. As far as I can see there is only the DVD and no CD issue, but you can download the audio version on iTunes, if you do that kind of thing. I shall probably end up doing so. The other solo set I must get is Les Trinitaires, which is live if memory serves me correctly.

  3. What a fine choice. This is a Hill I return to frequently. I love to hear Hill and Hutcherson together. Mine is a later pressing and if I remember rightly is ex-library stock — but nonetheless in very fine condition. The missing Hill I would dearly like to find — because I once had a duff copy that I had too dispose of — is SMOKESTACK. I don’t remember where I bought that record from but someone had done something weird to it — perhaps they had cleaned it with something bad, or perhaps played it with a pin — anyway, it hissed all the way through, despite looking fine on the surface.

    I didn’t realise how hard it would be to find a replacement — even a CD would do. Maybe I should have kept it. Ignorance in this case wasn’t strength…

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