greg taylor | Portland, Oregon United States | 04/05/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I agree with most everything in Paul's review and appreciated his suggestion of the comparison between this CD and the Cecil Taylor's Blue Notes. I have been playing Compulsion and Unit Structures on spiral for a day or two now to study the differences. I thank Paul for that. It has been a bit of an education First off, a few facts: this session was recorded on Oct.8th, 1965 (about six months before Taylor's Unit Structures). The personnel were Hill on piano, Freddie Hubbard on trumpet and flugelhorn, John Gilmore on tenor and bass clarinet (on Limbo), Cecil McBee on bass and Joe Chambers on the drums. To this quintet was added Nadi Qamar on African drums and percussion and Renaud Simmons on congas and percussion. Richard Davis plays bass only on Premonition. Qamar and Simmons are on every song and they basically provide a dense polyrhythmic background for the core quintet. Their presence on this CD is essential. Hill's music is full of complex meters and counter rhythm. On no other CD of his is this so evident because Simmons, Qamar, McBee and Chambers are providing it all so clearly. This results in many solos where say Gilmore is working with one of the rhythms and Hill is weirdly comping behind him in another rhythm. When I listen to CDs like this or Taylor's from this period I start to wonder how much influence they had on musician/theorists like Steve Coleman. The soli of Hill, Hubbard, Gilmore and Chambers are brilliant throughout. Hubbard always amazes me when I hear his playing from his period. As I grew up, I knew of Hubbard mostly from his CTI dates (I still love and recommend Straight Life). But his playing in the early and mid-1960s is so powerful. And listen to his ballad skills on the beginning of Premonition. The man was a trumpet god. I agree with Paul that this may not be the best entry point for the uninitiated in Hill's work. It may, however, become one of those CDs that I play for people when I want to introduce them to the wonders of contemporary jazz. And I use the word contemporary pointedly. For a while, in the sixties and seventies there was a lot of skronking going on in the name of free jazz. But the great players always went back and forth between imposing a structure of some sort on their music and their explorations of total freedom. I would claim that all of the most productive modern jazz players ended up developing various systems of musical structure that organized their playing. The musical advances of someone like Hill or Taylor are still being thought through by today's players. Or even by some of their contemporaries. Anthony Braxton, a few years back, devoted a small chunk of his life to studying Hill's music and then recording two CDs on the CIMP label devoted to Hill's compositions. One genius bowing to another. I may have been a little harsh toward Blue Note in some of my recent reviews on their CDs. Alfred Lion obviously heard the genius of Andrew Hill from the get go. Between 1963 and 1970, Lion recorded Hill many many times resulting in as accomplished a body of work as anything in the Blue Note vaults. More accurately, as accomplished a body of work that anybody did in any style of music over that period. This CD is one of the great documents of that accomplishment. Snap it up while it is available."
Michael L. Kauffmann | Wayne, PA United States | 06/05/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Much has been said about the musical qualities of this album, but I feel like the cultural side of it has been ignored, and considering that the latter informs the former, I thought I might go about offering my two cents on the issue.
Compulsion is by far one of Andrew Hill's more difficult albums. More than just a percussion-heavy blowing session, Compulsion is a concept album with a definite statement to make not only about music, but the culture it belongs to, and the culture it creates. Hill did not set out to create an album to demonstrate that the piano is a percussion instrument, though he uses it as such--it had been done years before him, lessons he learned and absorbed as he endeavored to create an album that displayed the "African kinds of rhythms... field cries... [that are] the basic roots of jazz."
The above quote (and all others) comes from the liner notes for Compulsion, which are excellently written, and in which Andrew Hill is particularly revealing concerning the compositional intent of each song. It seems to be that the only way one can not like this album (aside from just despising music) would be to ignore Hill's own words.
Each track, and the album as a whole, has deep cultural resonance for Hill. "Compulsion" draws on polyrhythmic African percussion as the musicians fluctuate between conversations with one another and statements of their own, drawing a sketch of the creative process, and the compelling need to identify oneself even if it is nothing more than an erratic, improvised screech. "Legacy" is even more indebted to African rhythms, specifically summoning the African past of the African-American experience and drawing it consciously into music.
I consider the final two tracks to be some of the most mature and affirming that Hill has ever composed. Their cultural themes resonate even today and their universal appeal towards understanding oneself transcend any single race or ethnicity. About "Premonition", Hill notes that "before you become aware of the strength and extent of your tradition, you have to have some kind of premonition of what has already transpired as well as of what is to come. I mean `premonition' as indicating not alone a look ahead, but rather a sufficiently revealing look backward so that you can really begin to know what may come."
The album ends with uncertainty on the final track, "Limbo". For Hill, this is a state between decision, without affirmation or condemnation, and where Hill sees his culture stuck. His final statement on this song remains relevant for all cultures 40 years after the album was released: "They'd rather float in space, hoping, than look into their heritage and take strength from that. Again, this has nothing to do with racism. Knowing who you are and what your roots are is positive, healthy knowledge, for, after all, we all seek identity and our future is more secure if we know our past."
As for the musicians on this date, they are all in top form. Hubbard has a real grasp on the individual sound that Hill is striving for, and Gilmore is just awesome. As incredible as his saxophone playing is, it is really the bass clarinet that adds the most color to this session. And, yet again, Joe Chambers is remarkable behind the kit. His compositional bend towards playing informs each stroke while his flawless feel for the difficult time provides solid support for the other players. If one has a particular interest in percussion, the percussion trio of Chambers, Qadar, and Simmons will not disappoint.
Compulsion should be understood as a statement about that past, the present it has resulted in, and the future that it could become. It is Hill's most cohesive album, an album driven from the opening notes by concept and purpose, but it is also one of Hill's most difficult albums, and most rewarding. "
Lost Masterpiece Found
Robert E. Lloyd | Deerfield Beach, FL | 04/11/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a remarkable set of compositions, perfomed exquisitely by top notch musicians. It is far and away Hill's finest recording. I first bought it on vinyl in 1977 and was astonished at its virtuosity. The opening piece alone is a landmark in the history of jazz. Never has a piano been played to such percussive intensity. You may make reference to Don Pullen, Dave Burrell, Takashi Kako, Sun Ra, and Cecil Taylor, but Andrew Hill's playing on Compulsion goes beyond all of them, a unique accomplishment. If Hill never recorded anything but the title composition alone, he would still be a jazz legend. What is even more amazing is the performance of the other musicians. This is Freddy Hubbard's finest hour, believe it or not. He does not remain inside traditional jazz but rather explores its outer regions in a lengthy, burning solo on the title cut. Joe Chambers drives all the musicians along with his expressive snare. And John Gilmore, surprisingly, is the most bright and subdued of all, though he adds the necessary depth. Those familiar with Hill will note the continuing influence of classical composer Paul Hindemith, but this album transcends in epic form any constrictive musical boundaries. Hill's blocking, angular, tone clustering approach is mesmerizing, alarming, yet subtle still. At the offered price, this is probably the best bargain in jazz. It's a CD that is not to be missed."
Percussion Heavy Avant-Garde
Paul R. Greene Jr. | Knoxville, TN | 03/20/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I just got my copy today, so I have only been able to listen to it once thus far, but my initial impressions are very favorable. Hill's compositions have a very percussion heavy African influence, due in part to the presence of percussionists Nadi Qamar and Renaud Simmons. This is perhaps Hill's most exploratory and challenging outing during the 60s, reminiscent in some ways of Cecil Taylor's pair of 1966 Blue Note albums, Unit Structures and Conquistador. Hill's core quintet consists of several mainstays of his 60s recording sessions, including Freddie Hubbard on trumpet and fluegelhorn, Joe Chambers on drums and bassist Richard Davis (on one track only). Oh, and did I mention John Gilmore on tenor sax and bass clarinet? Hardcore Hill fans will not be dissapointed, though if you're looking for an entry point into his work, I would suggest starting with something like Black Fire; be sure that you've at least got a good grasp on Point of Departure before you try this one out."
Opening a time capsule
Case Quarter | CT USA | 08/18/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"this is the second recording by andrew hill for me, my first: timelines. looking back forty years, what attracted me in the 21st century remains true back in the 60s, hill's compositional skills and his use of drummers for an african-american sound, and on compulsion, the title track, a latin american dizzy gillespie kind of rhythm.
premonition is a bit of musical fortune telling, a foretelling of a lot of jazz strands by other artists to come, in particular bitches brew, which is to say andrew hill was a lightning rod for the developing jazz ideas of the mid 60s, not to say that he headed in the direction of bitches brew. freddie hubbard on premonition, freddie hubbard throughout the recording is not miles davis, freddie hubbard is superbly, strongly, freddie hubbard.
john gilmore of sun ra's group definitely adds to the recording.
so far, from the two recordings heard, i like andrew hill's playing. and though his playing isn't as expansive as i would like, his composing and arranging excuse any brevity."