Friday, April 07, 2006

Andrew Hill - Judgment

Blue Note 63842

1. Siete Ocho
2. Flea Flop
3. Yokada Yokada
4. Alfred
5. Judgment
6. Reconciliation
7. Yokada Yokada (alternate take)



This is full-on avant-bop from a line-up of classic mid 60s 'Blue Note goes out' players. Messrs Hill, Hutcherson, Davis and Jones had all made their marks on the avant-garde scene by the time of this 1964 recording. While Hill's earlier Blue Notes were fiery affairs, this one is more subdued, cerebral even. Like labelmate and fellow pianist Herbie Hancock, Hill's compositions of this period reward close listening. But unlike Hancock, he can be seen clearly to be pushing the boundaries of accepted bop phrasing and harmony, right from the off - Herbie never went out as far as this.

Another departure from earlier albums is the lack of horns. But despite this shortcoming, the density of Hill's writing and the rhythmic mastery of Jones provide just enough texture. Hutcherson's vibes add further colour to the date - his playing here is among his best for the label and shows off his spare, single-line style to great effect. Indeed, his approach to melody is very similar to Hill's. They play together frequently, sounding like extensions of one another's personalities. Davis has been beatifully captured here, the CD reissue that I own showing off a huge, rounded bass tone. And Jones' drums, too, are reproduced cleanly, all the better to hear his tumbling polyrythmic accompaniment.

What stands out, listening to this music, is the lengths the group go to push the boundaries. All four players are pushing hard, there are no 'sidemen' here. The interplay between them all is what drives the session and makes it so good to listen to some 40 years later. It's still fresh, a quality that's often heard in Hill's music. He can truly be regarded as an original.

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