Selection: Yellow Violet
. . .
Charles Tolliver, trumpet; Joe Farrell, tenor, soprano sax; Andrew Hill, piano; Victor Sproles, bass; Billy Higgins, drums; recorded Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, October 11, 1968
All Music: ” this is Hill at his most visionary. From hard- and post bop frames come modal and tonal inquiries of staggering complexity.. . . Dance of Death is a phenomenal record, one that wears its adventure and authority well”
Jazz Journal: “Hill’s is a hard-edged but fascinating music, its densely-woven fabric depending less on lush melody than a complex interaction of sophisticated, spare harmonies and percussive phrasing. There are frequent shifts in rhythm and tempo, highlighted by sinuous melodies and chromatic tensions. Hill’s elliptical approach to melody is individual and full of pungent flavour, to be savoured at length.”
LJC: I agree, but there are things wrong with it from the collector standpoint. Two things. It is not rare, and it is not expensive. Apart from that, it is a treat of line up, Charles Tolliver and Joe Farrell front line, and the propulsive Mr Billy Higgins behind, guaranteed to keep Andrew Hill anchored and everyone making music.
Many reviewers comment the recording was “held back” until 1980. In the golden years, Blue Note vaults must have been teeming with recording sessions surplus to capacity. Capacity was at most two, just possibly three albums albums a year for any artist (excluding money-makers like Jimmy Smith). Blue Note funded more recording sessions than it had capacity to release, and thus had the flexibility and wriggle-room in cultivating its catalogue. Yet his was recorded on Liberty’s watch in 1968, and still not released.
Alfred Lion made his call, according to prospect for sales, and the musical trajectory and artist development, Hill’s catalogue was shaped for the more avant-garde Blue Note audience. Liberty later cherry-picked some of the best unissued sessions, with Andrew!!! and Grass Roots. It was Michael Cuscuna ferreting around in the vaults that yielded the UA Blue Note Classics LT series, and unearthed this Liberty recording session..
Mastered/mixed by UA house engineer Tony Sestanovitch at the end of the 70s. Nothing is known of Sestanovich, merely these forty or so Blue Note Classics engineering credits 1979-81. Strange to find an engineer in such an influential role without leaving even footprints in the sand.
Art Director’s Lunch Break
Art Director Bill Burks is out to lunch. Dance With Death is an arresting image, a winner. It pairs red and green, two colours that generally don’t like each other (except at Christmas): tension. It breaks the golden rule of thirds by sticking the shoe in the centre of the frame: even more tension. One blood-red high-heel shoe, discarded amidst the shrubbery, after dark, picked out by a torch-light. It demands explanation; where is the other shoe? Has something terrible happened? This is Twin Peaks territory. A great visual idea, well executed, relevant to the title and the music. (Photo Jane O’Neal). Well done Bill, you can take the afternoon off. Oh, you were intending to take it off anyway.
Most of the Blue Note Classics LT series covers are static geometrics, tight-cropped architecture or landscape, none are artist portraits, but some, like Dance With Death, raise the bar a little higher, tell a story or introduce movement. They are unfortunately all suffocated by the same large white frame, and text better suited to an optometrist’s wall chart. Where is Reid Miles when you need him?
Vinyl: United Artists Blue Note LT 1030
More Cuscuna gold from the Blue Note vaults. Like most of the LT Series, I figure mastered from the original van Gelder tapes, what else, no van Gelder master around, and no CD or digital copies in 1979 nor digital delay lines, so these are “almost Blue Note”. The only difference is what van Gelder would have added during mastering, and how hot he would have run the cutting. But Sestanovich does a workman-like job.
Charles Tolliver (Montreux 1971) and Andrew Hill (Montreux 1975)
Photo Credits: Harry M
Can we talk? Are you a “filing slut”? I’m ashamed to say I am.
There are a couple of hundred records, new acquisitions not yet entered into the database, records taken out for playing, photography, query-answering, not returned to the alphabetic filing system, occupying scarce floorspace. Better half has given me marching orders.
Impose alphabetical order, integrate into current filed records. I’d rather play records than file them, but I am now reaching the point where I can’t find anything, not a good place to be. Lucky you, Tidal, Bandcamp and Spotify listeners, you don’t have this problem. I can see the next week being National Vinyl Buyers Remorse Week.
Still, there is an upside. Last night I found my missing original copy of Lee Morgan Search For New Land, miss-filed. It went straight on to the turntable, bliss, such a beautiful album. (Sigh) Tomorrow I will add it to the pile of un-filed records.
Any favourites in the LT Series? I’ve got some great ones, but unfortunately, I can’t find most of them.
UPDATE: Joe Harley confirms Hill’s Dance With Death will get the Tone Poet treatment. I’m putting in my suggestion for the cover already!