Jazz at 100 Hour 75: The Hard Bop / Avant-Garde Synergy of Andrew Hill (1963 – 1965)

Andrew Hill

Blue Note Records in the 1960s released such iconoclastic projects as Cecil Taylor’s Unit Structures and Eric Dolphy’s Out To Lunch, but the label was best known for music on the Art Blakey – Horace Silver axis. As Ted Gioia has noted “…other, less radical Blue Note releases showed that there could be a meeting point between hard bop and the avant-garde. Important projects such as Andrew Hill’s Point of Departure [1964], [and] Bobby Hutcherson’s Dialogue [1965]… were anything but drab repetitions of old hard-bop formulas.” Pianist Andrew Hill played an important role in much of this music. The Hard Bop / Avant Garde Synergy of Andrew Hill, including his contributions to releases by Jimmy Woods and Bobby Hutcherson, this week on Jazz at 100.

Jimmy Woods, Conflict.
After appearing on Roland Kirk’s 1962 release, Domino, Andrew Hill gained notice on alto saxophonist Jimmy Woods 1963 release, Conflict. “The album as a whole proved to be one of the most ferocious hard-bop releases ever. Though all the musicians played with originality, I was especially struck by Hill, whom I had never heard of. His percussive attack and jagged lines seemed to leap forth from the record, announcing the arrival of a major new keyboard stylist.” – David Rosenthal

Coming Home. Jimmy Woods Sextet
(Carmell Jones-tp, Jimmy Woods-as, Harold Land-ts, Andrew Hill-p, George Tucker-b, Elvin Jones-d). From Conflict. 3/25-26/1963

Andrew Hill, Smokestack.
Black Fire, Hill’s first Blue Note LP, was cut in November 1963. Smokestack followed a month later, and Judgment a month after that. Point of Departure, his best-known album, was done in March 1964; Andrew! dates from June 1964. Even today, 95 percent of Hill’s reputation rests on these five albums, all recorded within an eight-month period.” – David Rosenthal

“Perhaps the most striking piece on the record [Smokestack] is ‘Wailing Wall.’ There, over the tide of Haynes’s cymbals and sputtering traps, Hill’s lush chords, and Khan’s walking bass, Davis creates a bowed solo described by Don Heckman as ‘a long declamatory line that moves sensuously in and out of semitone and microtone changes of pitch.’”– David Rosenthal

Wailing Wall. Andrew Hill Quartet
(Andrew Hill-p, Richard Davis-b, Eddie Khan-b, Roy Haynes-d). From Smokestack. 12/13/1963
Composed by Andrew Hill.

Andrew Hill, A Point of Departure.
“The tunes have intriguingly dark melodies, but on much of the material, when the players find the right scale to work from, they can just rip through their solo without having to worry about chord changes. This proves a perfect situation for the showy, restless Eric Dolphy, who … plays a tremendously moving bass-clarinet solo on ‘Dedication.’ It works for Joe Henderson, too, whose solos are dark and wary, with original melodic motifs… Tony Williams’s essayistic soloing throughout is so good that he’s really beyond comprehension.” – Ben Ratliff

Commercial considerations invariably had to be balanced against artistic enterprise, and to some degree that is true of Hill’s work itself, in which dissonant elements are forever in dialogue with a dancing, almost physical quality. It’s always difficult to place, neither orthodox bop nor hard bop, nor ‘avant-garde’. The pianist’s aim seems to be to find new ways of speaking within an understood language. He probes restlessly, as often as not looking for new tone colours as for a new approach to chord changes. Point Of Departure is one of the very great jazz albums of the ’60s… Hill’s writing and arranging skills matured dramatically with Point Of Departure. Nowhere is his determination to build on the example of Monk clearer than on the punningly titled ‘New Monastery’. Hill’s solo… is constructed out of literally dozens of subtle shifts in the time-signature, most of them too subliminal to be strictly counted. Typically, Hill is prepared to hold the basic beat himself and to allow Williams to range very freely…” – Brian Morton & Richard Cook

Dedication. Andrew Hill Sextet
(Kenny Dorham-tp, Eric Dolphy-as/bcl/fl, Joe Henderson-ts, Andrew Hill-p, Richard Davis-b, Tony Williams-d). From Point of Departure. 3/21/1964
Composed by Andrew Hill.

New Monastery. Andrew Hill Sextet
(Kenny Dorham-tp, Eric Dolphy-as/bcl/fl, Joe Henderson-ts, Andrew Hill-p, Richard Davis-b, Tony Williams-d). From Point of Departure. 3/21/1964
Composed by Andrew Hill.

Andrew Hill – Composer of “Bad” Tunes.
“Many of Hill’s compositions (like ‘Land of Nod’ on Black Fire, ’Catta’ on Bobby Hutcherson’s album Dialogue, or ‘Siete Ocho’ on Hill’s Judgment) are typical hard-bop numbers in several respects, including their quasi-Latin flavor and a sinister air, easy to recognize but harder to define, known as ‘badness.’” – David Rosenthal

Land Of Nod. Andrew Hill Quartet
(Joe Henderson-ts, Andrew Hill-p, Richard Davis-b, Roy Haynes-d). From Black Fire. 11/9/1963
Composed by Andrew Hill.

Siete Ocho. Andrew Hill Quartet
(Bobby Hutcherson-vib, Andrew Hill-p, Richard Davis-b, Elvin Jones-d). From Judgement. 1/8/1964
Composed by Andrew Hill.

Catta. Bobby Hutcherson Sextet
(Freddie Hubbard-tp, Sam Rivers-ts/ss/bcl/fl, Bobby Hutcherson-vib/mar, Andrew Hill-p, Richard Davis-b, Joe Chambers-d). From Dialogue. 4/3/1965
Composed by Andrew Hill.

“Cascading runs; rolling triplets; punched-out, repeated, transposed two-note chords and phrases all form part of Hill’s melodic vocabulary. So does his eccentrically fragmentary phrasing, which violates bar lines even more than bebop did. Hill’s harmonic sense brought him close simultaneously to the atmosphere of much previous hard bop, to Monk in certain respects, and to the French impressionists he cited in the same breath as his favorite jazz pianists.” – David Rosenthal

“Hill’s mature work was a strange amalgamation, prickly and cerebral by turns, and not targeted at crossover airplay like so many other Blue Note releases from the period. At the time, his music was too “inside” to be embraced by the avant-garde, but too “difficult” to appeal to most soul jazz and hard-bop fans. Yet history has validated his importance: his hybrid of experimentalism and formalism, dissonance and tonality, above all his focus on pushing at the limits of musical structures while still respecting their value, have made Hill an influential role model for many later pianists.” – Ted Gioia

Although he recorded until shortly before his death in 2007, Andrew Hill’s reputation hinges on the dozen recordings released by Blue Note from 1963 – 1969. John Fordham, the jazz critic for The Guardian, wrote in tribute to Hill, “Whenever the thumbnail sketch of the 1960s American jazz avant-garde is drawn, Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, Cecil Taylor or Sun Ra appear in the foreground – and even a half-dozen other faces might materialise before that of Andrew Hill… a uniquely gifted composer, pianist and educator [whose] status remained largely inside knowledge in the jazz world for most of his career.”

Joe Henderson may have been the most significant tenor saxophonist to emerge in the 1960s. His work on two of the biggest jazz records of the 1960s – Horace Silver’s ‘Song for My Father’ and Lee Morgan’s ‘The Sidewinder’ – has already been featured in previous programs of this series, as has his contribution to LPs by Kenny Dorham and Andrew Hill. In this hour of Jazz at 100, we will continue to explore Henderson’s solo work and his role as a valued sideman, mining the seams between hard bop and the avant-garde as the 1960s progressed.

Jimmy Woods. Conflict. Contemporary M 3612
Andrew Hill. Smokestack. Blue Note BLP 4160
Andrew Hill. Point Of Departure. Blue Note BLP 4167
Andrew Hill. Black Fire. Blue Note BLP 4151
Andrew Hill. Judgment. Blue Note BLP 4159
Bobby Hutcherson. Dialog. Blue Note BLP 4198

Fordham, John (April 22, 2007). “Andrew Hill”. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/news/2007/apr/23/guardianobituaries.obituaries2.
Gioia, Ted. 2011. The History of Jazz. New York. Oxford University Press.
Chapter 7. The Fragmentation of Styles
Morton, Brian & Cook, Richard. 2011. Penguin Jazz Guide, the History of the Music in the 1001 Best Albums. New York, NY. Penguin Books.
Andrew Hill. Point of Departure
Ratliff, Ben. 2002. The New York Times Essential Library of Jazz. New York. Times Books.
Chapter 79. Andrew Hill. Point of Departure (1964)
Rosenthal, David. 1992. Hard Bop: Jazz and Black Music, 1955-1965. New York. Oxford University Press.
Chapter 9. Changes

Annotated playlists and streaming links for all the Jazz at 100 broadcasts: Jazz at 100

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