Friday, December 23, 2022

Andrew Hill - Point Of Departure To Compulsion!!!!! (ezz-thetics records, 2022)

Pianist and composer Andrew Hill was at one of the peaks of his relentless creativity in 1964 and 1965 when these sessions were recorded resulting the the lauded Point of Departure album and the lesser known but equally fascinating Compulsion!!!! Jazz at this point had reached an uneasy peace with the more explicitly avant-garde players paving the way for groundbreaking musicians like Hill who had mastered the past forms of the music while looking for his own vision of the future. Recorded in March of 1964, the lineup on Point of Departure is staggering in retrospect. In addition to Hill on piano, we have Eric Dolphy on alto saxophone, flute and bass clarinet, Joe Henderson on tenor saxophone, Kenny Dorham on trumpet, Richard Davis on bass and Tony Williams on drums. A virtual murderers row of titans with the ability to play any compositions Hill gave them. And he gave them some wonderful tracks, beginning with the epic "Refuge" with the horns stating the urgent theme, eventually leading to a simmering area for the piano, bass and drums. Gem like solos unfurl for Dolphy on alto saxophone, Dorham, Davis, Henderson in turn before Williams who leads the group back into the theme and out. "New Monastery" has a complicated and rich theme and melody for the band to contemplate. They unfurl that knot, leading to a Dorham trumpet feature, turning into a startling Eric Dolphy mini solo. The rhythm section carries the tune for a while leading to a dignified Joe Henderson solo putting paid to this performance. Eric Dolphy's bass clarinet provides the foundation for the theme of "Spectrum" another brilliant multi-layered Hill melody. The pianist takes the lead moving through the complicated tune with bass and drum support. The horns enter in a stratified manner then allowing Dolphy's brilliant playing to shine through, before moving onto the other instruments. Davis has a rich solo segment before Dolphy soars above minimal accompaniment. He turns to flute to add texture, and the music has a sense of open ended splendor. The brief "Flight 19" features a propulsive theme built from the ground up as bass and bass clarinet provide a firm foundation for Dorham's trumpet and Hill's lush piano. The sounds weave in and around the pianist, but he is unperturbable, as is Davis, whose thick sound fills out the remainder of the track. Finally "Dedication" opens in a very emotional fashion with all of the instruments adding vibrant colors to the performance, the making room for a stellar solo by Eric Dolphy on bass clarinet. Hill's piano is lush and filling expanding to engulf the available space, the melody returns to this sad and elegiac closer. The Compulsion!!!! LP was recorded in late 1965, but wasn't released until early 1967 with Hill on piano, in the company of a very interesting band: Freddie Hubbard on trumpet and flugelhorn, John Gilmore on tenor saxophone and bass clarinet, Cecil McBee and Richard Davis on bass, Joe Chambers on drums and Renaud Simmons and Nadi Qamar on percussion. The music is tough and poignant on the opening track "Compulsion" with the hand percussion combining with the drums and Hill choosing to use a much stronger attack in terms of his piano playing. It's a heady mix, with long lines of stout trumpet joining as Hill leans into his instrument in a free like manner. Gilmore joins late on saxophone, but has a lot to say, developing the ideas and pushing them further afield. The shortest track is "Legacy" which is built from percussion, piano and thick bass the music simmers with heat but never boils over. The horns lay out for the length of the track allowing Hill to develop the music among the thicket of percussion and bass. "Premonition" has a stoic opening for trumpet, and prominent bass, leading to a fine bowed bass and brass feature. Hill returns, plunging deep into his instrument, dropping depth charges of low end piano notes and chords. Gilmore enters on bass clarinet, laying out for some more excellent bowed bass before joining the band for a return to the stern theme. The final track "Limbo" is much more colorful with both horns engaged, amid cascading percussion leading to a fine punching, growling trumpet solo full of fire. Hill leads the rhythm team into more abstract territory, before ceding time to McBee who plays yet more excellent bass. Gilmore shows up near the end on tenor saxophone, pushing the band over the top and into the final lap. This pairing of Andrew Hill albums from the mid 1960s works very well, joining one of his greatest achievements, Point of Departure, which jazz fans may be acquainted with with an unheralded but more than worthy companion in Compulsion!!!! Ezz-thetics has re-mastered the music to a high level, and includes a well written essay from jazz historian Bill Shoemaker, putting the whole package into historical context. Point Of Departure To Compulsion!!!!! - Squidco

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