Recent listening, current

Thursday, December 12, 2013

159. Buck Hill Quartet / This is Buck Hill (1978)

This is Buck Hill is Hill's recording debut on SteepleChase. From Washington D.C., Hill worked for the post office by day and was a hard driving driving tenor sax leader by night. So by the time we meet him in 1978, he is 51 years old and already possesses a fully developed tone and unique stylistic approach to modal material. Because of this late exposure, he is easy to miss, but he was and continues to be a fantastic player in the tradition of other big tenors that jazz listeners are more familiar with. For the debut he teams up with Billy Hart, Kenny Barron, and Buster Williams. They have a good sound that approaches the Prestige or Blue Note gold standard from two decades earlier. This session lacks the production gloss of newer Hill releases like Relax (which is also excellent). Notably, four of the album's seven tracks are Hill's originals. These are modal explorations with contributions from all members of the group. The four musicians play so well together that it's a hard sell for me to believe they weren't working together a lot longer than they were! Finding the vinyl could be a challenge but the recent CD is a worthwhile purchase and comes with a bonus take of Hill's "S.M.Y."

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