Tuesday, January 13, 2009


The pioneers of my favorite period of jazz -- the '50s and early '60s -- have been dying off at a dispiriting pace lately. A few weeks ago we lost trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, whose "Open Sesame" and work on early Herbie Hancock records i love. The other day i walked into amoeba's jazz room and heard the clerks blasting his classic "Hub Tones."

but over the last year or so i've been rediscovering the work of andrew hill, a pianist who died in 07. hill did not define a chapter of jazz the way thelonious monk or bill evans did, but you can tell exactly who's playing when he comes on. with weird harmonies, odd chromaticism and a brooding, intellectual quality to much of his playing, it's crossed with just enough avant-gardism to keep you a bit off balance. but like saxophonist joe henderson, with whom he had a lot in common, this music is essentially tuneful.

hill's most famous record is the wonderful "point of departure," though that record is dominated by eric dolphy's out-there saxophone and other weird horns -- dolphy took over a record the way peter lorre took over any film he was in. so i've been trying to find more "pure andrew," and sinking into 60s blue notes like "judgement!" and "smokestack." you get lots of hill on both, with no horns, and lots of richard davis, the incredibly resonant bassist who helps make van morrison's "astral weeks" so soulfully spooky.

photo flickr user 7

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