Andrew Hill ‘Whataya Want’ Dig (Nagel Heyer) 3/5

andrew-hillThis album is a collection of songs from Andrew Hill’s early recording sessions on Blue Note, showcasing his burgeoning talents as a writer, performer and leader. ‘Carolyn (alternate take)’, ‘Me ‘n You’ and ‘Three Way Split’ are taken from Hank Mobley’s ‘No Room for Squares’ (1963); ‘Dedication’, ‘Flight 19’, ‘Spectrum’ and ‘New Monastery’ from Hill’s own ‘Point of Departure’, (1964); and ‘Ghetto Lights’, ‘Catta’, ‘Jasper’ and ‘Les Noirs Marchant’ from Bobby Hutcherson’s ‘Dialogue’ (1965). Technically two of the tracks, ‘Jasper’ and the alternate take of ‘Carolyn’ did not appear on original releases but were recorded in the same sessions and added to later issues.
This is Blue Note at a time when some of its artists, like Andrew Hill, were moving on from Hard Bop, exploring and integrating Modal, Avant and Free jazz in to what became known as Post Bop.
The stand out tracks for me are from the Bobby Hutcherson set. These are Andrew Hill compositions with Hill playing piano alongside Hutcherson, Freddie Hubbard on trumpet, Sam Rivers on saxes, flute and bass clarinet, Richard Davis on Double Bass and Joe Chambers on drums.
The upbeat, latin-influenced ‘Catta’, the blues of ‘Ghetto Lights’ with Freddie Hubbard on muted trumpet and Sam Rivers on soprano sax, are solid tracks but the highlight for me is ‘Les Noirs Marchant’. This overtly political title starts at a military marching pace before descending in to a darker, more complex and freer composition. The marching tempo ebbs and flows throughout the piece.

My problem with this album is I can’t see that it brings anything new to the table. For me it’s not a greatest hits, there’s no ‘Illusion’, no ‘Lift Every Voice’. As a compilation of early works it does give a taste of things to come and it is probably fair to say that Hill does not get the exposure of some of the more lauded Blue Note artists, but these are Blue Note recordings; they are already available in their original contexts.

Andy Hazell