- “Sideways” – 4:09
- “Passing Ships” – 7:08
- “Plantation Bag” – 8:32
- “Noon Tide” – 9:49
- “The Brown Queen” – 6:22
- “Cascade” – 6:27
- “Yesterday’s Tomorrow” – 5:11
Selection: Passing Ships (Hill)
. . .
Artists (with wiki-links)
Andrew Hill piano; Dizzy Reece; trumpet (solo on tracks 1, 3, 4) Woody Shaw – trumpet (solo tracks 2, 5-7); Joe Farrell, alto flute, English horn, bass clarinet, soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone; Howard Johnson, bass clarinet, tuba; Robert Northern, french horn; Julian Priester, trombone; Ron Carter, bass; Lenny White, drums; recorded Englewood Cliffs, November 7 (tracks 2, 5 & 6) and November 14 (tracks 1, 3, 4 & 7), 1969.
Woody Shaw! Dizzy Reece! Ron Carter! What a line up! The suprise was Joe Farrell, best known for his 1970s jazzy-funk albums for CTI and Chick Corea’s Return to Forever. Before the funk/fusion typecasting, Farrell is heard here as a talented multi-instrument multi-stylist in the mould of Yusef Lateef. Lenny White, a fusion drummer who later also sought refuge in RTF, contributes sensitive atmospheric underpinnings.
Andrew Hill put together a nonet with a six piece brass and woodwind section to record this ambitious work. Instruments stolen from a passing classical orchestra on tour – alto flute, French and English horn, bass clarinet, and tuba – join with the conventional modern jazz ensemble to form an adventurous sonic palette, skillfully fleshing out Hill’s thoughtful architectural-scale compositions.
The title track is a remarkable piece. Joe Farrell’s plaintive theme on oboe floats over a muscular undertow of modal waves forged by trombone and trumpets, giving way to marvelous solos from Julian Priester and Woody Shaw. Shaw’s vibrato has rarely sounded as beautiful. Farrell steps in to round off the solo passage, bright hard tone, his own voice. “Passing Ships”, a powerful maritime metaphor, slow moving hulls displacing massive tonnage of water pass within sight of each other, a brief encounter, each carrying many lives with their hopes and dreams, bound ultimately for different destinations.
Passing Ships is absolutely gorgeous – writing, playing and listening.
All-Music review, 2010:
OTHER TRACKS: “Plantation Bag” is a showcase for Farrell’s tough, grooved-out soloing as he blows blue and free in response to Hill’s funky, large-spread chord voicings. The Asian melodic figures at the heart of “Noon Tide” add exoticism to one of the most adventurous tunes ever written by Hill.”Cascade,” with its staggered harmonic architecture, is remarkable for its precision and rhythmic invention.
This is not just any Andrew Hill record, this is one of his best. It is a “big band” but not the usual set-piece big-band arrangements but a mosaic of different voices inside Hill’s rhythmic structures. The tonal range is stretched by bass clarinet and tuba in the lower register, to alto flute, oboe and soprano sax in the upper. The mid-range smoky solos are part of the structure, not a break out from it. Quite remarkable and not the usual output of /Liberty Records under TransAmerica in 1969. Liberty nevertheless had run with Hill’s Grass Roots the year before. It’s a wonder the session was funded at all, yet no decision was made to prepare it for release, perhaps Hill missing a management champion.
Vinyl: BST 90417
Searching out “lost sessions”, reissue producer Michael Cuscuna’s liner notes tell of his disappointment with Passing Ships, – “sounded like a train wreck” – which turned out to be merely a rough trial tape mix of the 1969 session, some instruments heard only through the echo return. Revisiting the vault, at Hill’s suggestion, Cuscuna finally located the original master tape, which immediately yielded up the session in its full glory.
This enabled the first issue on Blue Note Connoiseur CD in 2003, remixed and mastered in 24 bit. It’s quite pretty, for a CD, which isn’t saying much, but the music garnered critical acclaim from CD buyers. Amazon Customer Review headlines: “A masterwork of American music…Great jazz record…Great find… An Amazing Recording…A True Gem… A Mystery and A Revelation! (The mystery is: why did Blue Note sit on this outstanding date for over 30 years?”)
The three LP sides deliver a total 45:38 minutes of beauty from 1969, and the Tone Poet offers a direct lineage from the Van Gelder tapes, delivering a more faithful rendition. With such a varied instrumental soundscape, stereo is unquestionably the format of choice, and the presentation is perfect.
Characteristic of Kevin Gray mastering: low gain (nearly half the volume of typical Van Gelder original audio output), narrow groove width permitting most of the music to sit on the outer grooves of the LP and avoid groove distortion – except for Side 1, where the track lengths dictate the passing ships are nearly swirling around the spindle-hole, more like Sinking Ships.
Gatefold: first coloured photos I have see from a TP. I confess I prefer my 1960s in black and white, my inner Art Director explains.
Below is the same gatefold rendered in black and white, which is the visual equivalent of “mono”. Remove instrument position information, get more focus on the music – on the what, not the where; remove colour information, more focus on the essence of light and shade.
When we look at photos we are reading information, and the most information is usually in the face: we are programmed to read faces and facial expression.The information that Farrell’s shirt is blue is low value information. Ron Carter’s expression in black and white captures his emotions, eyes closed, in direct communion with the instrument. In colour, it is the over-saturated skin-tone that draws the eye, and another blue shirt. Colour loads you with unimportant information.
Hill’s paisley shirt is a different kind of statement, not sure why but way too noisy in both colour and black and white. It’s a distraction from both face and the next important prop, the sheet music, instead, the shirt commands your attention. Hill’s mustard roll-neck on the cover is less of a distraction.
Art direction matters.
Harry M has the picture: Andrew Hill, Montreux, 1975
The three LP sides have pushed theTP price point to just short of £50 in the UK. Cheap at any price, unbeatable sonic value.
Previous LJC Andrew Hill posts:
Smokestack (? strange, I have but not posted, to investigate)
Also fine later recordings: Shades, Grass Roots, Nefertiti, Invitation, One For One, Strange Serenade, Eternal Spirit, Divine Revelation, and Dance With Death (Excellent LT Series another omission = future post)
Which prompts the collector’s thought: which of Andrew Hill’s classic Blue Notes are most expensive as originals? Leafing through Ebay results, Point Of Departure is in pole position, closely followed by Smokestack. and Black Fire, and bring up the rear at half the price, Compulsion!!!! and Andrew!!! I wonder how you view the market rate differential against the music content?
The Mosaic looks a bargain, with ten LP’s containing more albums and alt. takes, but, and there is always a big butt, it’s been out of print for over 25 years, and the Mosaic lacquers were apparently cut by a Duncan Stanbury at Master Cutting Rooms, a jobbing rock and pop engineer whose history which includes thousands of never heard of electric singles, among them The Beastie Boys and almost no acoustic jazz aside from some Ahmad Jamal – an engineer Mosaic chose to cut Van Gelder recording. What was Cuscuna thinking? Maybe he wasn’t thinking it was important. Mastering has long been a Mosaic blind spot, hit and miss, and now gone exclusively digital just as the vinyl wave rises.The 1995 Hill Mosaic didn’t have the benefit of Kevin Gray mastering, and it doesn’t contain Passing Ships – whose original tape was only found six years later, in 2001.
How many Mosaic boxsets suffered the same fate as this copy auctioned below?
“VINYL PERFECT MINT CONDITION, RECORDS NEVER PLAYED”
It is a smaller version of the Spotify/Tidal dilemma of infinite choice at the touch of a button. I have a 10-LP Miles Mosaic boxset, and it is suffering the same neglect, too much choice. Active Listening requires the discipline of vinyl, an effort to select and change LPs, discrete titles, small bites, absorb the music through active listening.
Mosaic boxsets can carry quite a heavy postage penalty, especially if the unwary are snared by this sort of offer on Discogs – actual current offer for the CD boxset., no LJC Photoshop mischief. Methinks Mack’s taking the Mickey $100,000 postage?. On the other hand, US postal charges, caught between the rock of free email, and hard place of courier competition, it might be a warning of what’s to come!!
First impressions of Passing Ships TP?
Anyone else care to share their observations on Passing Ships, I’ve only played it a couple of times , so first impressions only so far, but I think this is going to become a star release of the TP series, mainly because of the sheer quality of the music. Mind you, Katanga! is just around the corner, in June. I already have the UK Fontana mono, but Tone Poet, you are spoiling us, and I’m willing to be spoiled.