Selection: Judgement (Hill)
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.
Bobby Hutcherson (vibraphone) Andrew Hill (piano) Richard Davis (bass) Elvin Jones (drums) recorded Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, January 8, 1964
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.
Beginning 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.
Liner Notes: readable and interesting liner notes by Leonard Feather, rendered in LJC Super-Sharp ™ text.
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.