Jazz CD Reviews
Andrew Hill: Time Lines – Andrew Hill, piano; Charles Tolliver, trumpet; Greg Tardy, sax and clarinets; John Hebert, bass; Eric McPherson, drums – Blue Note
Published on April 28, 2006
Andrew Hill’s nearly abstract approach to music making has almost always bordered on the avant garde, and while that hasn’t engendered a widespread emulation of his performance style over time, it has endeared a legion of fans throughout his nearly fifty years behind the piano. His new album, Time Lines, is firmly rooted in the free jazz style that has served as his muse throughout much of his career. It possesses, however, an underlying current of melodicism and structure that marks this disc as one of the finest of his recorded canon.
The quintet setting chosen here represents Hill’s working ensemble, with the addition of trumpeter Charles Tolliver, who was added to the lineup for a series of performances at New York’s Birdland in 2005 that preceded these recordings. With only two rehearsals, his integration into the group was so seamless (Tolliver played on two of Hill’s classic sixties dates for Blue Note), that he became an essential element to Hill’s creative process and was added to the recording as well. The resulting sessions offer a truly adventurous musical experience – Andrew Hill has never bowed to any pressure from record execs to produce more formulaic or commercially viable offerings.
The proceedings begin and end with two versions of the track “Malachi,” which is Hill’s dedication to fellow Chicagoan Malachi Favors, bassist and co-founder of the Art Ensemble of Chicago, and one of his earliest musical associates. An atmospheric quintet version opens the album, and features some superb interplay between Tolliver and saxophonist Greg Tardy. An elegantly understated solo piano version bookends the remaining tunes. Of particular note are the tracks “Ry Round One” and “Ry Round Two,” which are essentially the same tune recorded one week apart – it’s pretty amazing to witness the creative process, and the difference a week makes in the improvisations that generated the two works. All the tunes average seven to nine minutes in length, so there’s plenty of room for the entire cast to stretch out, and generous solos abound.
From the opening notes of Hill’s piano intro on track one, it’s obvious as well that session producer Michael Cuscuna has given us a reference quality disc – not only is the music visceral and stimulating, but it’s absolute ear candy as well. John Hebert’s bass is almost stentorian, both deep and firm, and Andrew Hill’s piano rings with in-the-room realism. Red Book CD sound just doesn’t get any better than this – very highly recommended!
Tracks: Malachi; Time Lines; Ry Round 1; For Emilio; Kin’ler; Smooth; Ry Round 2; Malachi (solo piano version).
— Tom Gibbs