Dusk (Palmetto Records)

Andrew Hill

Released May 16, 2000

DownBeat Album of the Year Critics Poll

YouTube: https://music.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_lZfnmgvQIt4KK86FNahBSk6Kjt2vL883c


Over nearly half a century, composer-pianist-ensemble leader Andrew Hill gained international jazz renown for his uniquely original music and recorded ouevre, which is by turns dark, fragile, funny, stark, unforgettably tuneful, percussive, insightful, oblique, transparent and mysterious. With the release of Dusk (Palmetto Records), his first album in ten years, Hill reaches another peak, equaling high points of composition and collaboration he achieved in the 1960s with such innovators as Eric Dolphy, Kenny Dorham, John Gilmore, Roy Haynes, Joe Henderson, Bobby Hutcherson, Elvin Jones, Sam Rivers, Tony Williams and Reggie Workman, most often commissioned by Blue Note Records.

A folio of songs for sextet loosely inspired by Cane, Jean Toomer’s classic volume of stories and poems published during the Harlem Renaissance, Dusk features Hill’s New Point of Departure Sextet of virtuosi and the mature vision of an artist who has always flourished just beyond fame’s spotlight, the better to see, hear, feel and create without its insistent glare. At age 63, Hill is especially gratified that there’s plentiful new interest in his impeccable, elusive music — his teasing, just-beyond-grasp lyricism, his improvisations that simulate processes of thought, his themes that come together as naturally as night falls towards the end of a long day.

Hill was born in Chicago (despite mistaken information which prevailed for years that he arrived there in early childhood with his parents from Port au Prince, Haiti), raised in the heart of that city’s black South Side, and discovered playing accordion and tapdancing outside his neighborhood’s nightclubs and theaters by the great Earl “Fatha” Hines, who liked what he heard and told young Andrew, “I should be your master.” Stan Kenton’s arranger-trombonist Bill Russo also encouraged Hill, and introduced him to German composer-music theorist-in-exile Paul Hindemith, who corrected the notation of the youth’s nascent yet intriguing compositional style.

Hill began gigging in 1952, and in the summer of ’53 accompanied alto saxophonist Charlie Parker at the Greystone Ballroom, in Detroit. In the mid ’50s he rehearsed with Miles Davis, worked with Dinah Washington and Coleman Hawkins, then organized his own trio and recorded So In Love, his debut (featuring bassist Malachi Favors, a founder of the Art Ensemble of Chicago, and drummer James Slaughter) in 1955.

Upon moving to New York in 1961, Hill performed with Rahsaan Roland Kirk before being contracted as a leader by Alfred Lyons, the founder of Blue Note Records who proclaimed Hill his “last great protegÈ” at the 1986 Mount Fuji Festival celebrating Blue Note’s legacy. Hill’s Blue Note sessions from November, 1963 through March ’66 were released as the albums Black Fire, Smokestack, Judgement, Point of Departure, Andrew!, Compulsion, One For One and Involution and are compiled in the seven-CD boxed set The Complete Blue Note Andrew Hill Sessions (1963-66) on Mosaic Records. Hill returned to Blue Note in 1989 and ’90 to record Eternal Spirit and But Not Farewell, both of which featured saxophonist Greg Osby, and again late in ’99 as a guest on Osby’s album The Invisible Hand. He also released albums on the Arista-Freedom and Black Saint/Soul Note labels during the ’70s and ’80s, but spent most of those years (until the death of his wife Laverne in 1989) on the West Coast, offering solo concerts, classes and workshops in prisons, social service and academic settings, also playing occasionally at international fests.

Hill was a tenure-track associate professor of music at Portland State University, established its successful Summer Jazz Intensive, and has performed, conducted workshops and/or attended residencies at Wesleyan University, University of Michigan, University of Toronto, Harvard University and Bennington College. But in the past five years, since re-marrying and relocating (“for love,” as he says) to New York City environs, he has been rediscovered by a new generation of reverent musicians, jazz aficionados and general yet generously appreciative audiences.

Hill’s New Point of Departure Sextet, named for one of his best-known Blue Note albums, was convened for the Texaco Jazz Festival of 1998 at the suggestion of Michael Dorf of the Knitting Factory, with advice from James Brown of the club Sweet Basil; the New York Times, calling Hill “one of the 1960’s jazz heroes,” said the sextet’s first concert was “a triumphant return.” The sextet has since held weeklong engagements at New York’s Jazz Standard and Birdland, and performed memorably at Lincoln Center Out of Doors in summer 1999. Besides Hill at the piano, its members include saxophonists Marty Ehrlich (a veteran “downtowner” and musical associate of Muhal Richard Abrams, Julius Hemphill, Wayne Horvitz and John Zorn, among others) and Greg Tardy (a new but already much-in-demand tenor soloist), trumpeter Rod Horton (a stalwart of the Jazz Composers Alliance), backbone bassist Scott Colley and drummer Billy Drummond, one of the most imaginative of post-bop swingers.

Hill has performed at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall, opening the World Music Institute’s Interpretations series, and also concertized at the Studio Museum of Harlem. Columbia University’s WKCR-FM has broadcast Hill’s entire discography (lasting more than 50 hours), and in 1997, for his 60th birthday, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Jazz Foundation of America.

Track Listing:

1. Dusk (Andrew Hill) 12:05

2. ML (Andrew Hill) 4:10

3. Ball Square (Andrew Hill) 4:25

4. Tough Love (Andrew Hill) 7:19

5. Sept (Andrew Hill) 12:27

6. T.C. (Andrew Hill) 7:54

7. 15/8 (Andrew Hill) 10:31

8. Focus (Andrew Hill) 0:52


Andrew Hill: piano

Ron Horton: trumpet

Greg Tardy: tenor saxophone, clarinet, flute

Scott Colley: bass

Billy Drummond: drums

Marty Ehrlich: alto saxophone

Sextet recorded September 15, 1999 – and solo piano recorded October 27, 1999 –, at Maggie’s Farm, Buck’s County, PA

Produced by Matt Balitsaris

Engineering and Mastering: A.T. Michael MacDonald

Cover Portrait: Emilio Cruz

Design: Jason Grotrian


Alfred Lion, founder of Blue Note records, reaction to encountering pianist Andrew Hill’s music said it was exactly like the experience he had the first time he heard Thelonious Monk and Herbie Nichols. Lion and Blue Note devoted most of the 1960s to recording sessions for Hill. His sixties sessions were unique post-Monk visions somewhere between bop and the avant-garde. Like Herbie Nichols, Hill didn’t receive the deserved public recognition during his Blue Note career. And unlike Monk, he didn’t persist in the New York scene suffering in semi-obscurity until being “discovered” by the masses. Hill moved to the West Coast, spending the 1970s and 80s teaching and performing solo recitals. His return to New York a few years ago signaled a readiness to enter the jazz dialogue once again. Earlier this year, he, along with guitarist Jim Hall, sat in as sidemen on Greg Osby’s four star recording The Invisible Hand (Blue Note). This release, as leader for Palmetto, assembles a quintet of instruments that parallel his 60s opus Point Of Departure. Eschewing bop for melancholy, Hill’s all too personal music is thoughtful, meditative, and accessibly intellectual. He has found a musical soulmate in alto saxophonist Marty Ehrlich. The 45 year-old reedist plays a cerebral horn a la John Carter and Julius Hemphill. Joined by young lion Greg Tardy and Ron Horton of the Jazz Composer’s Alliance, Hill develops a complete suite of music. From horn chorale work to the Monk influenced piano of “ML,” Hill plays with shifting time sequences and patterns. Exactly the attractiveness he has to Greg Osby and his sidemen Ehrlich and Horton. “Tough Love” opens with an allusion to “Thanks For The Memories” before exercising some elegant demons. “15/8” another variant timepiece allows his rhythm section to boil, with Ehrlich, Tardy and Horton letting their respective big dogs eat. Hill’s music of the sixties opened doors for musicians like Anthony Braxton, Myra Melford, Dave Douglas, and Greg Osby. His return to the New York spotlight will definitely nudge the jazz world into new and creative directions.

Mark Corroto (All About Jazz)