Pianist Andrew Hill exploded on the Jazz scene during the fertile, adventurous Sixties. In the company of some of that era's most adventurous upstarts - Eric Dolphy, Joe Henderson, Sam Rivers, etc. - he was to the "avant-garde" what Monk was to Bebop. A brilliant composer of darkly vibrant and richly textured pieces, Hill has always created unique and challenging music. In this edition, George Lane looks at one of his early classics, Point of Departure.
Alfred Lion's Blue Note records is rightfully credited with producing incredible hard-bop and seminal funk-Jazz (roots of acid jazz) records during the '60s, but is rarely credited for its enormous contribution to the legacy of the "avant-garde" (out - free Jazz - whatever).
Composer/pianist Andrew Hill made a number of extraordinary recordings for Blue Note, all with exceptional and original sidemen. To me, this one is the best, and a truly great record by any standard.
Comprised of five originals by Hill, one of the most unique and interesting composers in Jazz, this music is stimulating, challenging and thoroughly accessible. Using an incredible sextet (Joe Henderson on tenor, Kenny Dorham on trumpet, Richard Davis on bass, Tony Williams on drums and the great Eric Dolphy on alto sax, bass clarinet and flute), Hill presents richly textured journeys through a musical spectrum of aural delight.
The complex and lustrous compositions are enhanced by the unique personalities of the three horns, allowing them complete freedom of expression, and the amazing work of Davis and Williams lets the music be free and still swing all the time.
Joe Henderson was in the midst of a very fertile period of exploration at this time and his playing here is powerful and adventurous. Dorham, who worked often with Joe in a hard-bop context, didn't get much opportunity to play on sessions like this, and turns in some very provocative work here.
As for Eric – whether slashing viciously through his alto solos on 'Refuge' or weaving his magical bass clarinet through the deep waters of 'Dedication,' or taking turns with both horns and his gorgeous flute on the multi-dimensional 'Spectrum' – he is simply astounding.
But for all the intense musical personality surrounding him, Hill is in control of this ship. His brilliant piano centers all of the music, whether soloing or supporting. This is unique music by a singular artist. Anyone who feels that current Jazz is not challenging enough should grab this recording now.