Andrew Hill - Pax

Blue Note

Re-release date: June 2006
Original recording: 1965

Pax cover

The further recognition of Andrew Hill as a major innovator of post bop jazz has led to a flurry of re-releases and, as he continues to work on despite the diagnosis of cancer in 2004, new material for Blue Note (“Time Lines”).

Here with “Pax”, we find him with an improbably stellar band – Joe Henderson (saxophone), Freddie Hubbard (trumpet), Richard Davis (bass), Joe Chambers (drums) – in an unreleased session from 1965 that had limited release ten years later, and apart from subsequent inclusion in a limited edition Mosaic box set, was thus largely unknown until this release.

It is not difficult to understand why the material was regarded as non-commercial in its day. In comparison with Art Blakey or Horace Silver, this is challenging stuff, where weird off kilter time signatures and Andrew Hill’s uncompromising piano vamps push to the limit the point where time no changes post bop smears into out and out free jazz. But stay with it and a beauty and significance nevertheless emerges, rather in the way that on a hectic journey a point of note is glimpsed and understood from a new, unfamiliar perspective.

Most approachable is the trio piece “Erato” which emerges as a quiet break from the storm outside. Much of the storm in the surrounding tracks is created by the uncompromising playing of Freddie Hubbard rubbing up against Andrew Hill’s disruptive Monk-like chords that seem designed to deliberately cut across and destabilize the intense rhythmic progression established by bass and drums. In contrast, Joe Henderson is more linear and seems much less actively engaged, though important in bringing the music back into more knowable territory.

Time has clearly been kind to this music; it sounds fresh, challenging and ever more worthy of attention as an antidote at a time when the music is in danger of being consumed by the easy lure of pop orientated vocal jazz.

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Andrew Hill - Pax

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