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Change (1966)

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J.C. Moses

The 1966 edition of the Andrew Hill Quartet included saxophonist Sam Rivers, bassist Walter Booker, and drummer J.C. Moses. This group recorded what was to be the first of Andrew Hill's four "free" sessions for Blue Note. The other three were all recorded in 1967 and were solo piano sessions. Two of those dates along with an Artist House LP were released on the Mosaic Select Andrew Hill box. Hill's classic, brilliant, and still-outside date Dance with Death from 1968, featuring Joe Farrell, Charles Tolliver, Victor Sproles, and Billy Higgins, was not issued until 1980 and made its first compact disc appearance in 2004. Change has an interesting story in that it wasn't released at the time of recording and remained in the can until 1975, when it was issued under Sam Rivers' name as part of a Blue Note double as part of a two-LP set called Involution. The other disc was a Rivers-led date (from 1967) with a different band that hit CD shelves in 1998 under the title Dimensions and Extensions. Change as it was recorded and edited -- and even given a catalog number (84233) -- is supplemented here with two bonus tracks from the date. All this music was previously released on CD in limited edition (and now sold out) as The Complete Blue Note Andrew Hill Sessions (1963-66). This band plays outside, but this is not "free jazz" in the original sense of the term. In fact, it is music that is composed, with lots of room for improvisation, and one need go no further than the 11-minute opening cut, "Violence," where Hill's chords lie behind a bristling opening solo by Rivers. Hill takes the solo from Rivers, quoting from stride piano blues and Thelonious Monk, and then enters into a spiky duet with the saxophonist before a bass solo and Hill entering on harpsichord. Rivers brings the head back in and moves it to the margins again. This fiery interplay is a long example of what lies in wait for those who've never encountered this music before. It is Hill at his most intense and focused, with an eager group of players who were all excellent listeners. In contrast, "Pain," the album's second track, feels like anything but, with a swinging, Monk-like theme before Sproles takes over with a bass solo that keeps the theme in clear view. Rivers isn't present here at all; it's a trio number that strides and lopes with a killer piano solo by Hill. The saxophonist doesn't re-enter the picture until the middle of the next cut, "Illusion," with a Latin-tinged rhythmic motif and wonderful playing by Moses. When Rivers does enter, his melodic strut -- courtesy of the composer -- feels like a beautiful nod to Ornette. And so it goes with one delight after another -- including a gorgeous trio ballad called "Lust" that brought the original album to a close. This is one of the most out and out structured "free" dates of the entire 1960s. It's a shame this ensemble didn't get to record together more, because by album's end it feels like they're just getting started. Hill never got to see this date come out on its own on disc. He passed away a month and a half before. ~ Thom Jurek