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Andrew Hill: Time Lines

Andrew Hill is back on Blue Note, and he still sounds only like himself. As a pianist, his note choices are still cryptic, his phrase shapes are still angular and his movements still scurry. As a composer/bandleader, he still creates exotic, darkly luminous aural landscapes that inspire soloists.

The eight tracks comprise six provocative recent Hill compositions. Two are interpreted twice. One of those, “Malachi,” opens the album with a deeply searching elegy for Malachi Favors Maghostut, with whom Hill played in Chicago in the late ’50s. Hill and the two horns in his quintet, Gregory Tardy (here on clarinet) and Charles Tolliver on trumpet, all make quietly fervent free forays for Malachi. The piece also closes the album in a solemn private meditation on solo piano, scattered wide but brought to focus by emotion. “Ry Round” is another song played twice: one jerks, one grooves.

The quintet rises brilliantly to the challenge of Hill’s musical formats. Tardy is always doing something fascinating on one of his three reed instruments, and Tolliver is a revelation. Instinctively more conservative than Hill, he formulates incisive, orderly statements that pull across Hill’s music in meaningful dynamic tension.

Hill made this album while battling cancer. The illness has not diminished his creative energy. Time Lines is one of the strongest recordings of his distinguished career.

Originally Published