Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music


HILL, Andrew

(b 30 June '37, Chicago; d 20 April 2007, Jersey City NJ of lung cancer) Pianist, composer. He began playing piano '50, baritone sax as well; worked in R&B at 15; recorded on the obscure Ping label in Chicago '55 with Von Freeman, baritone Pat Patrick, drummer Wilbur Campbell, others. An album So In Love With The Sound of Andrew Hill '55 with Malachi Favors and James Slaughter on bass and drums was issued on Warwick; he also played with Gene Ammons, Johnny Griffin and others in Chicago; then to NYC accompanying Dinah Washington. Tracks recorded in a club in St Louis '61 were issued as Johnny Hartman And The Andrew Hill Trio on VJM: five vocals and two instrumental tracks in defective sound. Hill worked in L.A. '62 with Roland Kirk, returned to NYC '63 and made his own record debut with Blue Note, no self-conscious avant-gardist but a composer to be reckoned with, his angular tunes and originality worthy of standing beside those of Thelonious Monk and Herbie Nichols.

Albums with all-star small groups included Black Fire and Smoke Stack '63, Judgement!, Point Of Departure (with Eric Dolphy) and Andrew! '64; Compulsion '65; Involution '66 (half of a two-disc set, the other album by Sam Rivers). The Complete Blue Note Andrew Hill Sessions (1963-66) were compiled on a Mosaic seven-CD set '95. Also on Blue Note were Grass Roots and Dance With Death '68, Lift Every Voice (with vocal septet) and One For One '69-70 (the two-disc set had a quartet and a sextet, the latter with his old mate Patrick, now playing alto and flute as well as baritone). Then Invitation '74 on Steeplechase; Spiral '74-5 on Arista, a quintet with Ted Curson and Lee Konitz, with Robin Kenyatta on alto on one cut. (Robin Kenyatta b Robert Prince Haynes, 6 March 1942, Monk's Corner SC; d 26 October 2004, Lausanne, Switzerland: at the time of his death was teaching in Lausanne and at Bentley in Waltham MA, where he also led the school bands. Of his early Atlantic albums, Until '95 was reissued in Japan in 2000; a later one was Ghost Stories '95 on Itm.)

There was a Hill quartet set Divine Revelation '75 on Steeplechase; trios Nefertiti '76 on East Wind, Strange Serenade '80 on Soul Note; quartet Shades '86 on Soul Note with Clifford Jordan, Rufus Reid on bass, Ben Riley on drums. Solo sets included Homage on East Wind, Live At Montreux on Arista ('Come Sunday'), both '75; From California With Love '78 on Artists House was a solo piano album; Faces Of Hope '80 and Verona Rag '86 were also solo sets, and were on Soul Note along with Shades '87. Active in TV and theatre and educational work, he worked with his wife, organist and composer Laverne Gillette, published his own music and used the proceeds to help music and musicians; Laverne died in 1989. His powers undimmed, he returned to a revived Blue Note label with Eternal Spirit '89 (with Bobby Hutcherson on vibes, who'd played on two of the earlier Blue Notes, Reid and Riley), and But Not Farewell '90, with Robin Eubanks on trombone, Lonnie Plaxico and Cecil Brooks on bass and drums, both albums featuring Greg Osby on alto and soprano sax, the latter ending with two piano solos. Les Trinitaires '98 on Jazz Friends was a solo set recorded in Metz, France.

Blue Note finally issued the beautiful Passing Ships in 2003, a nonet set recorded in 1969 with Woody Shaw, Dizzy Reese, Julian Priester and Ron Carter, and produced for release by Michael Cuscuna; Hill came back to that label after many years for Time Lines 2006, a quintet set produced by Cuscuna, with Greg Tardy on reeds, Charles Tolliver on trumpet, John Hebert on bass and Eric McPherson on drums. The limited-edition Mosaic 7-CD set was already out of print in 2008, but meanwhile Mosaic scooped up the rest of Hill's Blue Note output in a Mosaic Select 3-CD set in 2005, followed by another Select set of Andrew Hill - Solo from 1978, including the LP originally on Artists House plus two more hours of gorgeous unreleased stuff. Hill's death was a shock: we thought he would be around forever, but his music will be, ageless and timeless.