Sunday, February 04, 2007

"Don't Forget Yr Goat Leggings..." // Hail Hill

a striking new development in the Shapero annals... you remember how that one article mentioned "Wild Animus" promotional stunts involving animal costumery? (a book-industry dude told of this encounter with Shapero acolytes: "I was at the Book Expo America in Chicago and heard of these people dressed as sheep or something who jumped in a fountain.") well, courtesy of another assist from Laal--she gave me a lot of shit for calling her a "friend" last time, so here goes nothin': i will happily refer to her as my girlfriend henceforth--we now have actual audiovisual documentation of this phenomenon:

a whole bunch of folks took footage at the "Seattle Hempfest '06" and one lucky soul caught the Wild Animus promo team in action. the video depicts a shirtless young man, painted white, and cavorting around making ram-like body movements, leading around a pack of black-clad women, who are doing some kind of mating dance in formation behind him. you can see them all handing out the Shapero CD, exactly like the one i have, to unsuspecting Hempfestgoers. it's weird to see this all happening in broad daylight.

the truly unbelievable moment comes at 1:10, when one of the women comes up to the camera--you can see that she's wearing this billy-goat beard thingie--and actually *sniffs* at it. one wonders if this was extemporaneous or if her animal mimicry was coached. anyway, she then throws back her head and lets out this high-pitched howl, which the others answer in chorus. it's extremely fucking surreal.


DFSBP eternally hails jazz pianist/composer Andrew Hill. have been in intermittent thrall to this man's work since i impulse-bought his 1964 masterpiece "Point of Departure" in Kansas City like seven or eight years ago. (i recognized all the other names on the date but his, and figured he must be a pretty heavy cat to have Dolphy, Henderson, Williams, etc. playing alongside him.) anyway, am in one of those phases now--Hill is all i'm listening to.

i adore the recent music: "Time Lines," an awesome disc from last year, led me back to "Dusk," the much-lauded "comeback" release from 1999. that's a killer session, for sure. as you can hear on some of his lesser early Blue Notes, Hill sometimes let his larger groups get the best of him; his compositional voice can be almost evanescent. but "Dusk" is just packed with written material. it's not just about head-solos-head; the arranged stuff is interwoven w/ the improv and it's revealed slowly. many of the tracks shift direction entirely, so that each solo has a different setting. "Ball Square" starts off with this skittery, darting piano solo and eventually makes its way to the compositional core--this grinding, gospelish breakdown--only at the end. Hill picked up this scene-changing M.O. w/ the mighty "Spectrum"--a sort of multiflavor "Super Fun Pak" of themes--from "Point of Departure." he's only gotten better at that stuff since. so that led me to "A Beautiful Day," the big band recording from 2002 that followed. it can be diffuse, but at its best--like the gorgeous "Bellezza"--it's like "Dusk" as interpreted by an orchestra.

of course, with Hill, all roads lead to the classic Blue Notes from the mid-'60s. the real titans are "Point of Departure," "Andrew!!!" and prolly "Judgment," but they're all fascinating. i think "Dialogue," an Andrew Hill date disguised as a Bobby Hutcherson date from '65, is weaker than everyone else claims, but that's worth hearing too. they're all worth hearing, dammit: the two-bass piano trio "Smokestack," the dark, brooding, African-percussion-abetted and frankly fucking scary "Compulsion," the whimsical and quirky post-Monk postbop of "Black Fire," etc. and then there's just a ton more: some of the lesser ones--"Dance of Death," "Grass Roots"--can seem kind of slight and too straight ahead, but his writing was never less than rigorous even when it was kind of unmemorable, as it sometimes is on those dates. even the boring discs usually have one of those gorgeous, mournful, haunting floating-time ballads that Hill excelled, and still excels, at: check "Love Nocturne" from "Dance of Death," or "Erato" from "Pax" (a so-so quintet session w/ Joe Henderson and Freddie Hubbard that's been released under like eight different names); those stand alongside "Black Monday" from "Andrew!!!" (my absolute fave Hill piece), "Limbo" from "Compulsion" and "Dedication" from "Point of Departure" as examples of the man's singular mastery of the slow, floating, chilling, mournful, just plain fucking intense and heavy mode (he's all about this on the latest, "Time Lines," which features two exemplary free-time ballads: "Malachi" and "Whitsuntide.") it's not coincidental that a few of my other favorite jazz compositions--Grachan Moncur's "Evolution" and Booker Little's "Moods in Free Time" and "Man of Words--partake of this vibe.

been digging the vault-clearing Mosaic Select set too, which fills in some gaps during the Blue Note years. this stuff is generally lesser, but the last two sessions, with Sam Rivers and Robin Kenyatta, really have my ear. unwieldy, but undeniably Hill in so many spots. the dude's pen just never slacked; he never didn't sound like himself or watered down the pervasive quirks of his music. and his solos have always killed: floating, halting, ruminative, dreamy, spacey, just wonderfully peculiar but in an unself-conscous way. he's only gotten better at this btw; he's only become more himself in a sense. his playing is sparser yet more poignant these days. he's not capable of choosing a cliched note; he doesn't play jazz, he plays himself.

anyway, just get onboard with this guy if you're not. he's such a personality; so uncompromising, but in such a quiet, subtle way. this is not John Coltrane or Cecil Taylor or Albert Ayler or Sun Ra, but is in some way a truer kind of avant-garde. it's not about iconoclasm, but about straightforward individuality. he's not ashamed to make pretty music, but when it is pretty or palatable or memorable or attractive, it is so on its own peculiar terms. Andrew Hill: true jazz original who transcends the form and is simply a total musician that i'll easily add to my pantheon with John Fahey and really only a few others. he might be the deepest musician i can think of.

here's "Black Monday" from "Andrew" (1964). this piece kills me every time. it sounds like rain, sighing, autumn, murk, bruises, melancholy, turmoil, reflection, etc. killer solos from Bobby Hutcherson on vibes and John Gilmore on tenor; they understand this music as few have. this is deep, uncategorizable stuff. free jazz is what the rockers like--Andrew Hill isn't going to come to you that way. it speaks on its own quietly devastating terms.

(anyone have the new Hill solo set from Mosaic Select? some unreleased sessions from, i believe, the '70s. Hill solo is phenomenal in small doses, but can be hard to comprehend in large ones. he's so free that he can almost float away without the anchor of at least a rhythm section. i love "Verona Rag" and other solo Hill i've heard, but that stuff is a really challenging listen that demands constant focus.)

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