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Similarly Requested CDs
Another obscure, unique Andrew Hill outing gets reissued
Thomas Aikin | San Diego, CA | 02/17/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Andrew Hill was never afraid to combine seemingly disparate influences during his recording sessions. This has made tracking down and exploring his music a personal crusade for a number of us. However, Andrew Hill isn't among the most easily digestable musicians, resulting in a lack of recognition for his innovations and beautiful playing. This unique session is certainly a welcome reissue for those of us not around to pick it up on vinyl when it was originally released back around 1970. The original "Lift Every Voice" session is essentially a jazz quintet coupled with a mid-sized jazz (?) choir. This CD reissue augments that session with another one featuring slightly different personnel, but with the same basic format. Before hearing this CD I was both quite excited to hear how Hill could incorporate a choir into his compositions, and at the same time leery if I would actually like it. And while I must say the music on this CD is an acquired taste even for my adventurous ears, after repeated listens it all flows together and is both novel and beautiful. What I found most amazing about the music on "Life Every Voice" was how many different musical genres I was reminded of even within a single piece. At various times the music feels like gospel, big band, classical minimalism, straight ahead bop, or avant-garde jazz. And while I wouldn't say the improvisation or compositions on this disc make it a definitive session, Andrew Hill is certainly in top form. Additionally, I found myself quite impressed with the tenor sax of Carlos Garnett, a musician I was previously not familiar with. For someone looking for an introduction to Andrew Hill I would suggest starting with "Point of Departure", but for anyone looking to supplement their collection I heartily recommend picking this disc up. Its one of the true few gems in the post-Alfred Lion Blue Note era."
An Isle of Delectation
Kevin W. Celebi | Greencastle, IN | 03/08/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This album is similar to Hill's "Grass Roots" in that it provides two different sessions: one with Lee Morgan, the other with Woody Shaw. The main difference is that Hill has nine vocalists crammed into the studio with his group on this recording.
"Lift Every Voice" is probably the first (at least first successful) project of its kind: to combine small group jazz with a large amount of vocalists that isn't aimed at the general audience. The entire album is alternated between passages of the singers pronouncing syllables (and occasionally some words) behind the rhythm section and soloing by Hill and his trumpeters and saxophonists. The concept is fresh, unique, and ultimately interesting, though it does sound like a novelty at times.
The music is alluring and probing. "Lift Every Voice" searches for its tonal center, the vocalists urging saxophonist Carlos Garnett on as he weaves through chordal textures. It's the perfect music that would accompany the telling of myths and legends, with turns in storylines (harmonic mood) and deep expression (listening to Andrew Hill explore the keyboard is never anything short of exhilarating). Once this music is embedded into jazz legend, it will be appreciated more - unfortunately, the jazz audience still hasn't caught up with the genius of Andrew Hill as fully as it should yet. Just you wait - that day will come, and concept albums like this will only help his relentless cause.
The album's only flaw is its scrambled nature. It would have benefited more from a suite-like structure, connected enough to not be third stream, but more in tune with Hill's theme of fusing the beauty of voice with jazz's canvas. Instead, the album has eleven disjoint performances switching between vocal chanting and instrumental solos. This can associate it with more of the "traditional" jazz trend of head-solo-solo-head, which is fine, but "traditional" isn't a word you associate with Andrew Hill often.
The best thing to listen to (other than Hill's magical compositions) is the contrast between Lee Morgan and Woody Shaw. Shaw, as always in the late 60's, is locked in an absolute grind of fire and passion. Feel the way he tells stories with his improvisations, starting out with a mind-grabbing line, luring you into his artistry with harmonic wizardry. Morgan, on the other hand, was still on his late 60's decline. Because of drug and injury issues, his chops slowly started to deteriorate, though his musical wit and persona were as sharp as ever. He takes several great solos, most notably on "Blue Spark." Keep in mind that Shaw was introduced to Hill by Morgan.
My favorite track from "Lift Every Voice" is the romanticism of "Two Lullabies Love Chant." Any song that has a sequence of a minor chord followed by the same chord up a half step always has an attractive tension, but take this chordal vamp and give it to several vocalists behind Andrew Hill and you suddenly have a voyage of discovery. Hill's improvisations and comping give the alluring feel of the ocean, similar to Hancock's "Maiden Voyage," except with a much darker and noir-tinged feel.
Andrew Hill, ever the mariner, always bringing to light his musical ideas and experiments from the creative sea. "Lift Every Voice" is the perfect companion to the individual ready for discovery and delight."