Archive for the 'References' Category

Andrew Hill (1931-2007)

Saturday, April 21st, 2007

From The New York Times:
Andrew Hill, a pianist and composer of highly original and sometimes opaquely inner-dwelling jazz whose work only recently found a wide audience, died yesterday at his home in Jersey City. He was 75.
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Jack Vartoogian/FrontRowPhotos, 2006

Andrew Hill

The cause was lung cancer, said his wife, Joanne Robinson Hill.

It took almost 40 years for Mr. Hill’s work to be absorbed into jazz’s mainstream. From the first significant album in his discography (“Black Fire,” 1963) to the last (“Time Lines,” 2006), his work is an eloquent example of how jazz can combine traditional and original elements, notation and pure improvisation, playing both outside and inside strict time and harmony.

Mr. Hill was born in Chicago in 1931 — not Port-au-Prince, Haiti, as his early biographical information read, and not in 1937, as he often stated. He started playing music at 7, by learning the accordion; beginning at 10, he said, he taught himself how to play piano.

He eventually played be-bop with local musicians in Chicago, and worked on the road with Dinah Washington, Johnny Hartman and Dakota Staton. He got a chance to play with Charlie Parker at the Greystone Ballroom in Detroit in 1954. A job with Roland Kirk (later Rahsaan Roland Kirk) brought him to New York in the early 1960s.

In those years Mr. Hill was perceived as a kind of extension of Thelonious Monk, 20 years after Monk’s emergence. Both were brilliant composers, and played in a style suited to their own writing. And both careers benefited from the enthusiasm of Alfred Lion, from Blue Note Records, who was so enthusiastic about Mr. Hill that he recorded five albums’ worth of material in eight months.

Those five albums were “Black Fire,” “Smokestack,” “Judgment,” “Point of Departure” and “Andrew!!!,” and much of Mr. Hill’s reputation rests on them. With some of the best musicians at the time — Joe Henderson, Kenny Dorham, Roy Haynes and others — the records occupied an area between hard bop and abstract jazz. Some of the music was structured strangely, yet there was a strange emotional resonance in the writing, a cloudy romanticism.

Mr. Hill was unsuccessful in finding much of an audience for his work after the mid-1960s, and found it hard to maintain bands or work in clubs. But he was also committed to the idea that the jazz bandleader could live as a composer, not just a nightclub entertainer. He sought arts grants and worked increasingly as a solo performer on the college circuit.

He lived in upstate New York during the early 1970s, and then in California; in the 1980s, he recorded for the Soul Note label in Milan.

In 1989 he was signed again to Blue Note, which had been recently resurrected by EMI, making the albums “Eternal Spirit” and “But Not Farewell,” and beginning a renewal of interest in his early work. That same year, after the death of his wife Laverne, he moved to Oregon to teach at Portland State University until 1996, when he returned to the New York City area, and re-entered the map of jazz. His wife Joanne Robinson Hill survives him.

In his remarkable final decade, Mr. Hill led several bands, including a sextet, a big band and a quartet including the trumpeter Charles Tolliver. He made three new albums, all well received. In 2003 he received the Danish JazzPar Award, the biggest international honor in jazz.

Finally he was signed for the third time to Blue Note, recording “Time Lines.” Much of his early recorded work came out on CD, including 11 albums recorded for Blue Note during the 1960s that had never been released. At last, his challenging music was being performed or adapted by other musicians.

Mr. Hill’s last performance was at Trinity Church in Manhattan on March 29. On May 12 he is to receive an honorary doctorate posthumously from Berklee College of Music.

Alice Coltrane (1937-2007)

Monday, January 15th, 2007

From Wikipedia:

Alice Coltrane, born Alice McLeod (August 27, 1937–January 12, 2007) was an American jazz pianist, organist, harpist, and composer.

Born in Detroit, Michigan, Coltrane studied classical music, and was given piano lessons by Bud Powell. She began playing jazz as a professional in Detroit, with her own trio and as a duo with vibist Terry Pollard. From 1962 to 1963 she played with Terry Gibbs’s quartet, during which time she met John Coltrane. She played piano with his group from 1965 until his death in 1967, and married him in 1966. In addition to John becoming step-father to Alice’s daughter Miki, they had three children: drummer John Jr., and saxophonists Oran and Ravi. John Jr. died in a car crash at the beginning of the 1980s.

After her husband’s death she continued to play with her own groups, moving into more and more meditative music, and later playing with her children. She was one of the few harpists in the history of jazz. In the early 1970s, after years of involvement with Eastern religion, Coltrane took the name Swamini Turiyasangitananda. She was a devotee of the Indian guru Sathya Sai Baba. She continued to perform under the name Alice Coltrane, however.

Alice Coltrane died of respiratory failure at West Hills Hospital and Medical Center in suburban Los Angeles. Reportedly she had been in frail health for some time prior to her death.