Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Andrew Hill RIP

Playing right now: Ron Carter - Dear Miles, (Blue Note)

The June issue of JazzTimes was in the mailbox this morning and I have about six reviews in it. But that moment of euphoria was cut short when I read the death notices. Pianist Andrew Hill died on April 20. That's the first I'd heard about it. (The lesson here is that I need to look at the magazine's website more frequently, but at the same time, a newborn will often prevent that...)

I suppose it was only a matter of time. Andrew was 75, and was diagnosed with cancer just as he was making he return to Blue Note with his album Time Lines (which is reviewed here in a post from about a year ago. Look it up. Read it. Buy the record.) It's hard to say whether he went out on a high note (no pun intended) in that he was finally getting the recognition and respect that eluded him lo these last 40 years, or that he's going to join the roster of jazz innovators that will be bigger in death than in life (a la Mingus, Parker, Herbie Nichols).

But at the same time, Hill probably wouldn't like to be judged by which side of the success meter that he falls on. He'd prefer that people listen to the music. That's my guess at least. He never stopped making it. There are over a dozen albums on Blue Note that are still in print and all of them have the kind of music that makes you stop in your tracks and say, "Wait, what's he doing here? It starts in a familar setting but the music is going places that I never thought of. Two basses? That's crazy. They aren't playing together but they're moving together." Alfred Lion, who started Blue Note Records, considered Andrew the last big innovator on the label, someone on the same scale as Thelonious Monk.

In addition to the Blue Note ones, there are solo albums, some weird sessions for Arista-Freedom that include Lee Konitz and a bunch of large ensemble albums, which are especially deep.

Do yourself a favor and find a couple of them for yourself. Listen closely. And tell Andrew, thanks.

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