COMPOSERS: Andrew Hill
PERFORMER: Andrew Hill (p), Ron Horton, Dave Ballou, Laurie Frink, Bruce Staelens (t), Charlie Gordon, Joe Fiedler, Mike Fahn (tb), John Savage (f, as), etc
CATALOGUE NO: PM 2085 (distr. MacTwo)
Possibly the most underrated – certainly the most under-recorded – of the great bop and post-bop jazz pianist/composers, Andrew Hill has always been a highly individual musical force, and this big-band album, recorded live at Birdland last January, is immediately recognisable as his work.
As an instrumentalist, Hill – like the UK’s Howard Riley – combines a profound respect for Thelonious Monk and less musically eccentric bop pianists such as Bud Powell with a deep and fruitful interest in the freer margins of jazz, and the compositions on this rich and rousing album reflect this dual focus.
Shouting, rowdy themes packed with chattering, rumbustious brass grounded by the solid but oddly graceful tuba of José D’Avila are tellingly interspersed with exhilarating bursts of freeish playing; pleasantly galumphing rhythms, hectic tumbles and sweet horn chorales succeed each other with startling but always apposite suddenness; ensemble free-for-alls are juxtaposed with stunning solos, not only from Hill but also from reedsman supreme Marty Ehrlich and baritone player JD Parron.
As in his small-group Blue Note work from the Sixties onwards, Hill is more interested in exploring the many possibilities, rhythmical and textural, granted him by the forces at his disposal than in straightahead swing, so those expecting an uncomplicated big-band romp will be somewhat perplexed by this music’s many felicitous complexities. But for sheer inventiveness, daring and imagination, A Beautiful Day is almost unrivalled in contemporary jazz. Chris Parker