Andrew Hill

A Beautiful Day 

Palmetto Records 2085

Andrew Hill, pianist; Scott Colley, bass; Nasheet Waits, drums; Aaron Stewart, tenor saxophone; John Savage, alto saxophone, flute; Marty Ehrlich, alto saxophone, clarinets, flute; Greg Tardy, tenor saxophone, clarinets; J.D. Parran, baritone saxophone, bass clarinet; Ron Horton, Dave Ballou, Laurie Frink, Bruce Staalens, trumpets; Charlie Gordon, Joe Fiedler, Mike Fahn, trombones; Jose D,Avila, tuba.

This outstanding new CD by Andrew Hill, recorded at Birdland in January 2002, succeeds not only as a powerful artistic statement from one of the world's great composer/pianists, but a case study with regard to how expanded ensembles should be conducted.

In lesser groups, an over-reliance on charts has resulted in lost opportunities. A distinctive soloist can find his or her ideas restricted, or even worse, buried under a huge wall of sound. That's not the case here, however.  Witness this master of rhythm and orchestral color, whose all-encompassing pianistic skills infuse every aspect of the music. And at the core of this aesthetic, the soloist is still paramount.  

In "Divine Revelation," Hill enlightens us as to what can happen on a single tonal center.  Everything fits, whether close or distant to the harmonic nucleus.  The masterful polyphonic writing of "Faded Beauty" and "Bellezza" give way to the polyrhythms of "5 Mo," whose transitions are seamlessly integrated into the musical fabric.  The modal fragment in "New Pinnochio" effectively contrasts the pan-tonality of "J DI" which features a phenomenal baritone saxophone solo by J.D. Parran himself.  Hill's open harmonies bring out the very best in his soloists, especially on the title track; Waits is a most sensitive ally.  "11/8" concludes the proceedings in just over a minute, complete with a benediction from the maestro himself.

by James D. Armstrong, Jr.

Editor, Music in Transition.

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