Perhaps the most singular jazz pianist and composer of the last forty years, Andrew Hill's legacy is only now starting to be fully understood. In light of his passing in April of 2007, eMusic's inclusion of three of his fine '70s albums — Blue Black, Hommage and Nefertiti — is a particularly important and timely addition. Although this review focuses on Nefertiti, any of the three are highly recommended.
“Blue Black” sets the album's tone. Starting with solo piano, the piece moves around a simple melodic theme. Hill utilizes a combination of dark chords, sharply attacked single note lines, and brooding Montuno-infused figures. About seven minutes into the improvisation, bassist Richard Davis and drummer Roger Blank burst in on the pianist's tense, rhythmically variegated rumination. Their entrance is both violent and chaotic.
It's completely exhilarating.
As is the entire album. The title track, with its brooding interplay between Davis's ambiguously pitched arco bass and Hill's subtle commentary is haunting. This is music that transcends simple enjoyment. It gets under your skin.
Andrew Hill combined a genius for melodic structure with mysterious, open-ended harmonies and subtle, restless rhythms to form a profoundly moving body of work. Nefertiti is jazz at its most riveting.