Buck Hill: Relax

Hill is the proverbial local legend with a day job for 40 years and a reputation as a jazzman who could hang with the greats. Now retired from the Post Office, the Washington, D.C., tenor saxophonist performs here in the company of organist John Ozment, guitarist Paul Pieper and drummer Jerry Jones. As his previous albums have demonstrated, he is a bluesy, bebop-oriented player with a bold, expressive sound that has been compared to Stanley Turrentine.

Hill is a pleasure to experience on the familiar tunes “Old Folks” and Miles Davis’ “Flamenco Sketches,” “Pfrancing” and “Milestones” (the earlier “Milestones,” not the modal one) as well as on his four originals. He laces his upper register with a jazz cry and he molds his tone to fit the line and mood at hand. On his “Sad Ones” he employs a furry tone and devises florid melodic embellishments. On the title tune, his tone is thick yet supple as he digs into the beat. On “Milestones” he negotiates the bop harmonies with skills that can only be learned on the bandstand.

Ozment, Pieper and Jones support Hill with the kind of soulful backing and solos heard during the heyday of Blue Note Records. Pieper suggests Wes Montgomery at times. Ozment shows admirable restraint on the ballads and plenty of heat on the others.

This album is a fine, honest portrait by a veteran who still has plenty to say.