Andrew Hill: Change

Andrew Hill
Blue Note

In 2006, jazz pianist Andrew Hill recounted to writer Ben Ratliff something Charlie Parker himself had once told the young pianist: "I look at melody as rhythm." Such was the metronymic outlook that informed all of Hill's career, some five decades' worth of music. While his introverted persona was overshadowed in an era of iconoclasts like Cecil Taylor, John Coltrane, and Albert Ayler, time has justified his greatness. Even after his passing from lung cancer this spring at the age of 69, the copious, searching music he recorded for Blue Note continues to stream forth.

Change, which was recorded in 1966 yet unreleased, save for a brief appearance in 1976 under tenor saxophonist Sam Rivers's name, finds Hill as far out and free as he ever got. While Hill's albums like Judgment! and Point of Departure are watermarks of the post-bop era, Hill also precipitated his own market decline by penning Lee Morgan's raucous soul-jazz hit "The Rumproller." As such jazz became a hit in the marketplace, Blue Note moved from prickly avant-garde works like Taylor's Unit Structures toward unit-shifters.

No surprise, then, that a date with titles like "Pain" and "Lust" left the board of directors nonplussed. Reflecting the turbulence of the time, Hill and Rivers tussle throughout, melding composition and improvisation so that each gets mistaken for the other. Roiling opener "Violence" moves from a crackling dialogue into a becalmed turn from Hill on harpsichord. Soon, though, drummer J.C. Moses fans the flames anew, and much like the song's namesake, the violence cycles back.

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