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Jazz for Curious Listeners
Pianists Deserving Wider Recognition: Andrew Hill
December 9, 2008

Recognized by Blue Note Records' founder Alfred Lyon as his "last, great protégé," pianist Andrew Hill spent 40 years composing, performing, recording, and mentoring young musicians. Born in Chicago in 1931, Andrew Hill began teaching himself to play piano at age 10, and was later introduced to German composer and music theorist-in-exile Paul Hindemith. He started performing in 1952 with touring jazz musicians, including Charlie Parker, Dinah Washington, Coleman Hawkins, and Miles Davis.

He moved to New York in 1961 and shortly thereafter was contracted by Alfred Lyons at Blue Note Records as a leader and a sideman, producing his early classics for the label, such as Point of Departure and Black Fire. Hill's Blue Note sessions with acclaimed musicians such as Eric Dolphy, Kenny Dorham, John Gilmore, Roy Haynes, Joe Henderson, and Elvin Jones cemented his reputation as a musician and composer of some renown.

Hill served as composer-in-residence at Colgate University in Hamilton, New York from 1970-72. In California, he performed in concert and taught classes at public schools and social service institutions before becoming an associate professor of music at Portland State University, where he established the successful Summer Jazz Intensive. He also performed and taught at Harvard and Wesleyan universities, among others.
He returned to New York City in the 1990s, reestablishing himself as a pianist, ensemble leader, and composer. In 2000, Hill released “Dusk,” a song cycle loosely based on Jean Toomer's 1923 book Cane, with yet another phenomenal band. The album brought him to the attention of and garnered him acclaim from a larger jazz audience, claiming a place on best-album-of-the-year lists with Fortune Magazine, San Diego Union Tribune, Philadelphia Inquirer, JazzTimes, and Down Beat.

The new attention led to reissues of his classic Blue Note recordings of the 1960s and new issues of some previously unreleased recordings from that time period. One of the most interesting was Passing Ships, a previously unknown nonet recording that prefaced his big band recording in 2002, A Beautiful Day, by more than 30 years. In 2003, he received the prestigious Danish award, the JAZZPAR Prize. And just this year, Joyous Shout Records released a 1993 duet collaboration between Hill and drummer Chico Hamilton. Liner notes writer Gene Santoro: “How they prod and jab and lure each other, is a marvel to hear.”

Pianist Frank Kimbrough with Curious Listeners after his session on his friend and mentor Andrew Hill

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