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Time Lines: ANDREW HILL (1931-2007): Highlights from Issue 24: The Chicago Issue

Highlights from Issue 24: The Chicago Issue

Pianist Andrew Hill


Monday, January 02, 2006

We were saddened to learn of the passing of the great jazz pianist Andrew Hill at age 75. For more on Hill, visit Jazz Times and Downbeat

— The Editors, 4/20/07


The following piece appeared in December 2005 in Issue 24: The Chicago Issue

For more information on this issue, click here


By Leopold Froehlich

Sixty years ago, stand on the northeast corner of 47th Street and Grand Boulevard on a June night and you may see a taciturn little kid tap-dancing and playing the blues accordion. That's where pianist Earl “Fatha” Hines supposedly saw nine-year-old Andrew Hill, hustling for change in the heart of Chicago's South Center commercial strip, across the street from the lights of the Regal Theater.** (See footnote for more.) Hill grew up on the South Side in the Ida B. Wells Projects. He was a student at the University of Chicago's Lab School, but received his musical education at what he called the University of the Streets. Surrounded by the music of Bronzeville: all styles, all varieties, expressed endlessly in dozens of clubs and ballrooms. The Mocambo Club on Oakwood Boulevard, the Savoy, the Hurricane Lounge (where Albert Ammons ruled the roost with his boogie-woogie piano). Hill's precocity was noted early. At the age of 12 he accompanied Charlie Parker at Detroit's Greystone Ballroom. He moved to New York in 1961 to work as Dinah Washington's accompanist, and thus ended another Chicago story. Why did he leave Chicago? “I was picking up bad habits and it seemed like my last chance to leave,” Hill says. “Plus the scene was changing from natural talent to middle-class schooled musicians.”

There are echoes of Tatum and Monk in Andrew Hill's playing, but his playing is sui generis. Intelligent yet lyrical, Hill's music has always been a bridge between the rigidities of hard bop and the creative liberties of free jazz. His newest album — Time Lines — brings him back to Blue Note, the label where he recorded his masterpiece, Point of Departure, in 1964. Hill's latest work reflects the passage of time — the playing is more open and elliptical and the songs are more economical than they were 40 years ago — but it is as good as anything he has ever done in his career.

** “No, that's misinformation,” says Hill. “I was Fatha Hines' newspaper delivery boy. He had an apartment in the Grand Terrace Hotel on 35th Street. I delivered the Chicago Tribune. I was halfway knowledgeable of who he was, so I was banging the papers against his door, seven in the morning before school, when he was trying to sleep. After two or three weeks, he woke up and confronted me. He got nice for a minute and asked if I played accordion. I told him yes. I went into his apartment and played a rendition of something I heard him play, almost note for note. We struck up a friendship after that.”

For more on Issue 24: The Chicago Issue, click here


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