The First 5 Andrew Hill Blue Note Records to Get

One of the first jazz artists I became infatuated with outside the Miles Davis John Coltrane realm was Chicago native Andrew Hill.

A pianist whom to my ears was heavily influenced by Thelonius Monk, but with a modern bent toward Bud Powell. Hill was born in 1931, and passed away in 2007.

Like most of the jazz artists who made their bones in the avant-garde jazz world, Hill too has been grossly overlooked outside of the genre.

Every Blue Note record he ever recorded is worth owning, and honestly I think all of his albums are well worth hearing.

Below are the 5 records I think are the most indispensable in his Blue Note discography.

Passing Ships

Passing Ships from 1969 and not released until 2003 just might be the best album he ever did for Blue Note. The album features an octet that switches out Woody Shaw and Dizzy Reese on an equal number of the 6 tracks.

Howard Johnson plays bass clarinet or tuba throughout and adds quite a bit of depth to the sound. The real star here though is the underrated Joe Farrell. 

Farrell plays alto, tenor, and soprano sax, as well as bass clarinet, alto flute, and English horn. Hard to believe this music was not released when it was recorded. It's easily one of my top 20 CD's of any genre. This CD has great Michael Cusuna liner notes on how the session was unearthed and brought to release.

Lenny White also appears in the drum chair, and it was only the second recording he ever appeared on. 

Point of Departure

Point of Departure is more famous for multi instrumentalist Eric Dolphy than anything else. Though with Tony Williams on Drums, and Kenny Dorham on trumpet, you know it's going to be a wild ride. 

Dorham and Dolphy together seems like something that had the potential for disaster, yet the music while clearly free bop, works very well and remains one of the best of its kind ever recorded.

Joe Henderson on tenor sax, seems to be the glue that holds Dorham and Dolphy together. Henderson sounds great no matter the setting, whether freer styles or even funky commercial styles. Did Henderson ever mail in a performance?

When you listen to this music, keep in mind that drummer Williams was just 18 years old! For my money the late Williams was the best jazz drummer who ever lived in terms of breaking new ground, as he did here and with the Miles Davis mid-60's quintet.

Lift Every Voice

This 2001 CD release of Lift Every Voice adds 6 bonus tracks from 1970 to the the original 1969 recording of the Hill Quintet augmented with voices, that are conducted by Lawrence Marshall. 

This is an unusual recording, one I did not expect to like. However it has become a dark horse of my collection with many hours either on the turntable or the CD player.

The standout other than pianist Hill, and the in unison singing vocals of course, is the the vastly underrated Woody Shaw on trumpet, who might be the last truly great innovator of the instrument.

Dance With Death

Dance with Death features the track "Yellow Violet" that has become my favorite Hill composition. A haunting theme played by Joe Farrell and Charles Tolliver on trumpet, just spectacular. 

This is just one of those tunes that gets me, not unlike say Miles Davis' opening sounds on the Kind of Blue track "Blue in Green" . "Yellow Violet" is an upbeat tune, and not a down tempo tune, but somehow evokes a similar mood for me.

The rest of the album is nearly as good with Farrell and Tolliver matching each other throughout. Dance With Death is another one of those albums (1980) not released when it was recorded (1968).

The CD release is well worth having, with once again stellar liner notes.


Judgement is a 1964 quartet album that features Bobby Hutcherson on Vibes, and boy does it work well to show off both Hill and Hitcherson's talents.

Of the 5 albums chosen here, Judgement is the one that took the most effort for me to appreciate. I do miss a horn when it's not present. This is one of those cases though where Hill's compositions shine brightly and Hutcherson's hauntingly good vibes fill the horn void. 

After Judgement I began to search out more quartet records like this that feature the vibes and piano as the focal point.

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