Andrew Hill is my favorite jazz composer. His arrangements, his groups, everything about the man I throughly adore. When I heard about his death last year it saddened me a great deal because even in his old age he was still a marvel of a player and more importantly still releasing relevant jazz music. 'Black Fire' followed Hill's most celebrated achievement 'Point of Departure' and while that album is probably one of the best avant garde jazz records of all time the rest of Hill's discography is certainly not something to scoff at. Simply looking at the rhythm section of this record you know you are in for a treat. Two of the most inventive jazz musicians of the period Roy Haynes and Richard Davis bring a extremely tight performance to this record and in my opinion easily surpassing Davis' performance with Tony Williams on 'Point of Departure'. Where 'Point of Departure' comes off as a more compositional record, 'Black Fire' seems to showcase the more meandering improvisations of Hill's music and in that light it comes off as a fantastic journey.
"It wasn't unusual in the mid-60s for Blue Note albums to include original compositions, but sometimes these compositions were pretty generic: a modal number, a "Sidewinder" clone, a blues number, etc. But not here -- each of Hill's tunes is distinct from those generic categories, and from the other tunes on the album. Hill's tunes include weird twists and turns, starts and stops, alternating sections with clashing ideas or moods, unpredictable rhythms, and of course a touch of Monk. "Subterfuge" is a percussive, claustrophobic piano trio performance. "McNeil Island" is another trio performance, but this time Roy Haynes sits out. Joe Henderson plays very lyrically on this one. "Black Fire" is a waltz, alternating an upbeat theme with a darker one. It's interesting to see how the soloists adjust to the frequently adjusting moods in their solos. "Pumpkin" (introduced by a striking Richard Davis bassline) and the sorta-Latin "Cantarnos" both feature intense, passionate melodies. " - GB (user on Amazon.com)
This is a fantastic record and a great exploration into the stranger areas of jazz for any fans of the genre. Perhaps not a great starting point for Jazz or even Hill, but a very solid record once you become accustomed to what exactly this man's philosophies on music are.
Andrew Hill - Black Fire (1964)