June 2000

Andrew Hill
Grass Roots
Blue Note Records

Andrew Hill's Grass Roots is one of those post-Alfred Lion Blue Notes that fell through the cracks, as it neither excited the pianist's base or expanded his audience with its off-center soul jazz and Latin tunes. Still, the material has the requisite quirks that make Hill a singular composer and this sympathetic, if unlikely, quintet of Lee Morgan, Booker Ervin, Ron Carter and Freddie Waits delivers thoughtful performances, making the album recommendable to avid Hill listeners who missed it the first time out. The disc is filled out by a session from earlier in '68 that test-drove three of the pieces issued on Grass Roots. Leading a truly improbable sextet with Woody Shaw, Frank Mitchell, Jimmy Ponder, Reggie Workman and Idris Muhammad, this is one of Hill's more experimental sessions in the true sense of the word. Interestingly, both sessions contained the bristling "Venture Inward," an angular theme that works hand in glove with an urgent rhythmic undertow, creating an intriguing basis for comparing Morgan and Shaw.

Originally published in June 2000

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