Mosaic Select 16

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Always intriguing, Andrew Hill’s performances can seem oddly constructed. Or maybe it’s that they’re so well put together, but from such unexpected pieces. They could be pictures assembled from different jigsaw puzzles, or elephants built from the descriptions of the five blind cats. He can be bold and declarative, but don’t expect simplicity very often. Along with artists such as Sam Rivers, Cecil Taylor and Tony Williams, pianist Hill was among the most adamant of the modernists on the Blue Note label in the 1960s, but none of the others composed such intricately knotted works.

The label recorded and released his music from 1963 through 1966 — and recorded him for another four years with the supposedly “uneven” results left to gather dust. But some of the long-lost sessions have trickled out since, and the stir caused by last year’s Passing Ships on Blue Note set the stage for this archive-clearing, three-CD collection. There are a half-dozen piano trio performances here, plus two cuts where Hill switches to organ. But we mostly get sextets and septets where Hill’s idiosyncratic counterpoint and juxtapositions are in full flower, interpreted by such musical associates as Bennie Maupin, Sam Rivers and Ron Carter. The most surprising selections pair jazz combos with a string quartet. With Mosaic’s 1960-1966 collection of Hill’s music long out of print, there’s no better package of his music to be found. Meanwhile, Blue Note just signed Hill to the label for a third time. Bet they don’t shelve these next sessions for 35 years.

W. Kim Heron is the managing editor of Metro Times. E-mail wkheron@metrotimes.com.

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