Andrew Hill: Dance With Death (1968) UA 1980

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.















Harry’s Place

Charles Tolliver (Montreux 1971) and Andrew Hill (Montreux 1975)

Photo Credits: Harry M

Collector’s Corner

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!

17 thoughts on “Andrew Hill: Dance With Death (1968) UA 1980

  1. I bought two Jackie McLean albums from the LT series last week – Vertigo and Consequence. Of the two, I think Vertigo is a better record. McLean and Donald Byrd sound great, and Herbie Hancock is just on fire.

  2. I bought and thoroughly enjoyed LT 1076, Leo Parker, Rolin’ with Leo on its release. In addition to the music the liners were a great source of info for those of us lacking at the time comprehensive discographies.

  3. I enjoy LT-1045 Thinking Of Home, Hank Mobley, Cedar Walton & Woody Shaw. Golden 70’s
    Here the cover of Bill Burks makes me think of anything but home. A hardly isolated wooden house amidst snow and ice. Better fitting ECM artwork ?

  4. I must be one of the few people who actually like some of the LT series art. BN did the artist portraits in the 50s/60s when that was a thing, then they moved on. Likewise, the LT series are very much “of their time.” They resemble ECM artwork, which sold very well.

    Speaking of design, can we talk about your website with its font-weight of 300? I have to whip out the devtools and axe that — even my not-so-old-eyes can’t read the razor-thin grey letters! 🙂

    • Welcome someone who speaks my language, even if we disagree in it. I am always open to suggestion how anything here can be improved

      LJC is housed in a pre-formed WordPress template, hosted and managed by WordPress. I have no control over anything like text fonts – only user-generated content like photo uploads.

      Photos which I shoot and upload are sized to be viewed full screen on a PC monitor 1920 pixel wide, to enable small detail in liner notes 12″x12″ real size or record labels 100mm wide and etchings to be read clearly on the screen. (If viewed on a phone, they can be expanded to be equally readable) Most shots are with a 50mm sub-macro lens, very small subjects with a 100mm full macro.

      Where I scavenge record sellers pictures off the internet, the original source eg someone else’s 250 pixel wide picture, that is nothing I can change, though I often look to see if there is a better at higher resolution from someone else. Modern cameras shoot 5,000 pixel-wide + yet the net has all these rubbish tiny out of focus images.

      Thanks for your comments, always appreciated.

      • I hope you know my comments were in good humour. Love your site. No big deal on the fonts. I just made a greasemonkey script anyway that makes the font weight 900, so fatter and easier to read.

        Today is a big Blue Note day in my house. Unexpectedly rainy all day, so not getting outside.

        So far I’ve spun

        All Seeing Eye (not my fave, but very slowly coming around to it)
        Indestructible (awesome)
        The Phantom (better than I remember)
        Grant’s First Stand (always a good choice)

  5. I rather enjoy just about all of the LT albums I’ve gotten – but Larry Young’s “Mothership” and Lee Morgan’s “Tom Cat” are a cut above. Both might be my favorites by their leaders, regardless of when they were released.

  6. This series reminds me of the saying :all that glitters is not gold” Not all titles in this series were from the vaults of Blue Note , a fair amount of re-badging happened , the Joe Pass shown above was previously issued on Pacific Jazz and nothing to do with Blue Note at the time along with such titles as Blakey’s Once upon a groove (Pacific) Evans / Brookmeyer ( UA) Mulligan Freeway ( Pacific) and more .If you are nuts on buying Blue Note always check the original release label or you could be in a “Dance with Death” ( Brilliant album by the way. )

    • Quite so. I have about half the forty four in the LT series, two of which for me are duds: The Art Pepper Alpha Omega (1957 session, Pacific Jazz?) and, inexplicably, Jimmy Smith Cool Blues. I’m very happy with the rest, a 90% pass rate.

      The half I give a wide berth to are not my preferred artist choice: Stanley Turrentine, Jimmy Smith, and Ike Quebec, ymmv.

      The last four in the LT series 1100-4 are non-Blue Note, Cuscuna’s late additions. I don’t have any of those, can’t speak for them, but I notice The Mulligan Freeway session is from 1952. There is something not right about these older and non-Van Gelder sources.

      The pick of LT series were also issued in Japan around the same time – Grant Green, some Lee Morgan and Hank Mobley, alternative covers and are quite expensive. A couple I have had the opportunity to compare the US LT edition with the Japanese, and the Japanese are characteristically soft and muffled by comparison.

      The words to watch are “recorded by Van Gelder” , sound advice.

      • The Art Pepper you mention originally came on Omegatape ST 7020 and 7021 ,and was only on reel to reel tape . I agree with the RVG recommendation but add a caveat ,Watch out for “Roger re-mix” and “Ned needle drop” , they will stuff up the best recording and is also why your site is so valuable. Keep up the good fight.

  7. Nice to see this wonderful album getting props. We have already mastered it for the next cycle of Tone Poets….the test pressing sounds wonderful. (I will be accused of bias.) We will come up with suitable cover art, as we have done with several others from the LT Series. I would guestimate the time of the release to be late next summer…depending on supply chain.

  8. Grant Green-“Solid”. Why in the hell BN has not re-issued this as a Tone Poet or Vinyl Classic is beyond me. Smokin’ record that is right up there (and maybe surpasses ‘Idle Moments”)….

    • Have no fear…a little birdy told me Solid is indeed set for release in the Classic Series. The date has not been set. And do remember….we all have our favorites but we can only release so many titles per year. We’ll get to everyone’s favorites eventually.

    • There is no question to me that Solid is better than Idle Moments. I’m hoping they can squeeze Matador into the classic series too. Those two are his best IMHO.

    • Solid was released as an MusicMatters Jazz 45 so is excluded from the TP series (it’s an absolutely fantastic MMJ too) but many will be thrilled it’s penned for a BNC release and deservedly so.

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