POINT of DEPARTURE -Andrew Hill posted by Justin Scoville
Andrew Hill (1931-2007) was a masterful jazz pianist and composer whose impact on jazz is only beginning to be understood and appreciated. Largely overshadowed during his early career by both the monumental contributions of Miles Davis’s “Second Quintet” and John Coltrane’s cosmic forays into Free Jazz, Hill quietly amassed an impressive body of work during the 60’s and beyond. He fearlessly (and successfully!) combined elements of Free Jazz, Modal, Hard Bop, and Classical music into a fascinating, frothy brew of innovative jazz.
Point of Departure (1964)is one of Hill’s true masterpieces and a cornerstone of the Blue Note repertoire. His challenging material, ranging in emotional complexity from dirge-like hymns to crackling avant-garde anthems, is ably anchored by an on-point Tony Williams (drums) and joyously off-kilter Richard Williams (bass). Old pals Joe Henderson (tenor saxophone) and Kenny Dorham (trumpet) make up two-thirds of the horn section, with the fearless trailblazer and reed master Eric Dolphy (alto saxophone) rounding out the group.
“Refuge” is a Post Bop magnum opus in which Dolphy, Henderson, and Williams show off their transcendent virtuosity at warp speed. The tune is completely refreshing and original in terms of form, harmony, and structure. “New Monastery,” alluding to Hill’s role as a successor to Thelonious Monk, is beautifully interpreted by Kenny Dorham, who incidentally was a key player for Monk’s first recordings for Blue Note. “Spectrum” is a jaw-dropping study in contrasts. Hill’s solo ends with a complete group tacet, followed by Williams’s snare intro to an other-worldly, triad based groove, punctuated by Hill’s left hand and Dorham’s trumpet (complete with plunger mute). “Flight 19” is a controlled experiment in group improvisation, alternating an ostinato motif with unpredictable outbursts from the entire horn section. “Dedication” closes out the set, with Henderson’s oblique ballad saxophone tone sometimes clashing, sometimes melding with Hill’s subtle piano accompaniment.
The Rudy Van Gelder edition tacks on alternate takes of “New Monastery,” “Flight 19,” and “Dedication,” along with expanded liner notes.
In a sense, Hill bridged the gap between the warring factions of jazz of his time, bringing harmony to a discordant world. Point of Departure
is a fascinating look into Hill’s musical mind, and his sympathetic supporting cast make his music come to life.
This post was contributed by Denver-based musician and blogger Justin Scoville. He maintains his own website www.thejazzdaddy.com, He also contributes actively to jazz blogs throughout the Denver area.