Andrew Hill (jazz musician)

Andrew Hill (June 30, 1931[1] April 20, 2007) was an American jazz pianist and composer.

Andrew Hill
Background information
BornJune 30, 1931[1]
Chicago, Illinois, United States
DiedApril 20, 2007(2007-04-20) (aged 75)
Jersey City, New Jersey, United States
GenresJazz, avant-garde jazz, bebop, hard bop
Occupation(s)Musician, bandleader, composer
InstrumentsPiano, celeste, harpsichord
Years active1954–2007
LabelsBlue Note, SteepleChase, Soul Note, Palmetto

Jazz critic John Fordham described Hill as a "uniquely gifted composer, pianist and educator" although "his status remained largely inside knowledge in the jazz world for most of his career."[2]

Hill recorded for Blue Note Records for nearly a decade, producing a dozen albums.


Early life

Andrew Hill was born in Chicago, Illinois (not in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, nor was he born in 1937, as was reported by many earlier jazz reference books), to William and Hattie Hille. He had a brother, Robert, who was a singer and classical violin player.[3] Hill took up the piano at the age of thirteen, and was encouraged by Earl Hines. As a child, he attended the University of Chicago Experimental School.[4] He was referred by jazz composer Bill Russo to Paul Hindemith, with whom he studied informally until 1952.

While a teenager, he performed in rhythm and blues bands and with touring jazz musicians, including Charlie Parker and Miles Davis. Hill recalls some of his experience as a youngster, during a 1964 interview with Leonard Feather: "I started out in music as a boy soprano, singing and playing the accordion, and tap dancing. I had a little act and made quite a few of the talent shows around town from 1943 until 1947. I won turkeys at two Thanksgiving parties at the Regal Theatre," parties sponsored by the newspaper Chicago Defender, which Hill coincidentally used to sell on the streets.[3]


In 1950, Hill learned his first blues changes on the piano from the saxophonist Pat Patrick and in 1953, he played his first professional job as a musician, with Paul Williams' band. "At that time", he recalls, "I was playing baritone sax as well as piano."[5] During the next few years, the piano gigs brought him into contact with many musicians, some of whom became relevant influences: Joe Segal and Barry Harris, among others. In 1961, after travelling as an accompanist for Dinah Washington, the young pianist settled in New York City in 1961,[2] where he worked for Johnny Hartman and Al Hibbler, then briefly moved to Los Angeles County, where he worked with Roland Kirk's quartet and at the jazz club Lighthouse Café, in Hermosa Beach.

Hill first recorded as a sideman in 1954, but his reputation was made by his Blue Note recordings as leader from 1963 to 1970, which featured several other important post-bop musicians including Joe Chambers, Richard Davis, Eric Dolphy, Bobby Hutcherson, Joe Henderson, Freddie Hubbard, Elvin Jones, Woody Shaw, Tony Williams, and John Gilmore. Hill also played on albums by Henderson, Hutcherson, and Hank Mobley. His compositions accounted for three of the five pieces on Bobby Hutcherson's classic Dialogue album.[6]

Hill rarely worked as a sideman after the 1960s, preferring to play his own compositions. This may have limited his public exposure. He later taught in California and held a tenure-track faculty appointment at Portland State University from 1989 to 1996. While at PSU, he established a Summer Jazz Intensive program, in addition to performing, conducting workshops and attending residencies at Wesleyan University, the University of Michigan, the University of Toronto, Harvard University, Bennington College and other schools.[7]

Hill's album Dusk was selected best album of 2001 by both Down Beat and JazzTimes; and in 2003, Hill received the Jazzpar Prize.[2] Hill's earlier work also received renewed attention as a result of the belated release of several unissued sessions made in the 1960s for Blue Note, notably the ambitious large-group date Passing Ships. In 2004, he appeared on SOLOS: The Jazz Sessions. As a consequence of his renewed prominence, a new Blue Note album titled Time Lines was released on February 21, 2006.

His final public performance was on March 29, 2007 at Trinity Church in New York City.

Private life

It was while working at the Lighthouse Café, in Hermosa Beach that he met his future wife, Laverne Gillette,[8] at the time an organist at the Red Carpet. They married in 1963 and moved to New York.[3]

Laverne died following a long illness in California, where the couple had settled, in 1989.[9] He married dancer/educator Joanne Robinson Hill in Portland in 1992. They moved to New York City in 1995. From 2000, Hill and his wife lived in Jersey City, New Jersey.[9]

Andrew Hill suffered from lung cancer during the last years of his life. He died at his home in Jersey City, New Jersey.[10][11]

In May 2007, he became the first person to receive a posthumous honorary doctorate from Berklee College of Music.

Playing style

Hill's main influences were pianists Thelonious Monk, Bud Powell and Art Tatum. "Monk's like Ravel and Debussy to me, in that he put a lot of personality into his playing [...] it's the personality of music which makes it, finally," he said in a 1963 interview with A. B. Spellman. Powell was an even greater influence, but Hill thought that his music was a dead end: "If you stay with Bud too much, you'll always sound like him, even if you're doing something he never did." Hill referred to Tatum as the epitome of "all modern piano playing".[4]


As leader

Year recorded Title Label Notes
1959 So in Love Warwick Trio, with Malachi Favors (bass), James Slaughter (drums)
1963 Black Fire Blue Note Quartet, with Joe Henderson (tenor sax), Richard Davis (bass), Roy Haynes (drums)
1963 Smoke Stack Blue Note With Richard Davis and Eddie Khan (bass), Roy Haynes (drums)
1964 Judgment! Blue Note Quartet, with Bobby Hutcherson (vibes), Richard Davis (bass), Elvin Jones (drums)
1964 Point of Departure Blue Note Sextet, with Eric Dolphy (flute, bass clarinet, alto sax), Joe Henderson (tenor sax), Kenny Dorham (trumpet), Richard Davis (bass), Tony Williams (drums)
1964 Andrew!!! Blue Note Quintet, with John Gilmore (tenor sax), Bobby Hutcherson (vibes), Richard Davis (bass), Joe Chambers (drums)
1965 Pax Blue Note Quintet, with Joe Henderson (tenor sax), Freddie Hubbard (cornet), Richard Davis (bass), Joe Chambers (drums)
1965 Compulsion!!!!! Blue Note With John Gilmore (bass clarinet, tenor sax), Freddie Hubbard (trumpet, flugelhorn), Richard Davis (bass), Joe Chambers (drums), Nadi Qamar (conga, percussion), Renaud Simmons (conga)
1966 Change Blue Note Quartet, with Sam Rivers (tenor sax), Walter Booker (bass), J. C. Moses (drums); first issued as Sam Rivers's album Involution
1968 Grass Roots Blue Note Some tracks quintet with Frank Mitchell (tenor sax), Woody Shaw (trumpet), Reggie Workman (bass), Idris Muhammad (drums); some tracks sextet, with Jimmy Ponder (guitar) added; some tracks quintet with Booker Ervin (tenor sax), Lee Morgan (trumpet), Ron Carter (bass), Freddie Waits (drums)
1968 Dance with Death Blue Note Quintet, with Joe Farrell (soprano sax, tenor sax), Charles Tolliver (trumpet), Victor Sproles (bass), Billy Higgins (drums)
1969 Lift Every Voice Blue Note With Carlos Garnett (tenor sax), Woody Shaw (trumpet), Richard Davis (bass), Freddie Waits (drums), Benjamin Franklin Carter, Joan Johnson, LaReine LaMar, Gail Nelson, Antenett Goodman Ray, Ron Steward and Lawrence Marshall (vocals)
1969 Passing Ships Blue Note With Dizzy Reece and Woody Shaw (trumpet), Joe Farrell (alto flute, English horn, bass clarinet, soprano sax, tenor sax), Howard Johnson (bass clarinet, tuba), Robert Northern (French horn), Julian Priester (trombone), Ron Carter (bass), Lenny White (drums); released 2003
1965–70 One for One Blue Note With various; released 1975
1974 Invitation SteepleChase Trio, with Chris White (bass), Art Lewis (drums)
1974–75 Spiral Freedom Some tracks quartet, with Robin Kenyatta (alto sax), Stafford James (bass), Barry Altschul (drums); some tracks quintet, with Lee Konitz (soprano sax, alto sax, tenor sax), Ted Curson (trumpet, fleugelhorn, pocket trumpet), Cecil McBee (bass), Art Lewis (drums)
1975 Blue Black East Wind Quartet, with Jimmy Vass (flute, soprano sax, alto sax), Chris White (bass), Leroy Williams (drums)
1975 Divine Revelation SteepleChase One track solo piano; some tracks quartet, with Jimmy Vass (flute, soprano sax, alto sax), Chris White (bass), Leroy Williams (drums)
1975 Hommage East Wind Solo piano
1975 Live at Montreux Freedom Solo piano; in concert
1976 Nefertiti East Wind Trio, with Richard Davis (bass), Roger Blank (drums)
1978 From California with Love Artists House Solo piano
1980 Strange Serenade Soul Note Trio, with Alan Silva (bass), Freddie Waits (drums)
1980 Faces of Hope Soul Note Solo piano
1986 Shades Soul Note Some tracks trio, with Rufus Reid (bass), Ben Riley (drums); some tracks quartet, with Clifford Jordan (tenor sax) added
1986 Verona Rag Soul Note Solo piano
1989 Eternal Spirit Blue Note Quintet, with Greg Osby (alto sax), Bobby Hutcherson (vibes), Rufus Reid (bass), Ben Riley (drums)
1990 But Not Farewell Blue Note Two tracks solo piano; one track duo, with Greg Osby (alto sax); most tracks quintet, with Osby (alto sax, soprano sax), Robin Eubanks (trombone), Lonnie Plaxico (bass), Cecil Brooks III (drums)
1993 Dreams Come True Joyous Shout! Duo, with Chico Hamilton (drums, percussion); released 2008
1998 Les Trinitaires Jazzfriends Solo piano; in concert
1999 Dusk Palmetto Two tracks solo piano; most tracks sextet, with Marty Ehrlich (bass clarinet, alto sax), Greg Tardy (bass clarinet, tenor sax), Ron Horton (trumpet), Scott Colley (bass), Billy Drummond (drums)
2002 A Beautiful Day Palmetto With big band; in concert
2003 The Day the World Stood Still Stunt With Thomas Agergaard (flute, tenor sax), Peter Fuglsang (clarinet, bass clarinet, alto sax), Liudas Mockunas (clarinet, bass clarinet, soprano sax, baritone sax), Staffan Svensson (trumpet), Klaus Löhrer (bass trombone, tuba), Scott Colley (bass), Nasheet Waits (drums), Lenora Zenzalai Helm (vocals); in concert
2005 Time Lines Blue Note One track solo piano; most tracks quintet, with Greg Tardy (clarinet, bass clarinet, tenor sax), Charles Tolliver (trumpet), John Hebert (bass), Eric McPherson (drums)



As sideman

With Walt Dickerson

With Roland Kirk

With Jimmy Woods

With Hank Mobley

With Joe Henderson

With Bobby Hutcherson

With Russel Baba

  • Earth Prayer (1992)

With Reggie Workman

  • Summit Conference (1994)

With Greg Osby

  • The Invisible Hand (Blue Note, 2000)


  1. Mandel, Howard (April 20, 2007) "Andrew Hill: 1931–2007" All About Jazz. Archived September 14, 2007, at the Wayback Machine Retrieved April 20, 2007. During his lifetime, Hill's year of birth was always given as 1937.
  2. Fordham, John (April 23, 2007). "Andrew Hill". The Guardian. Retrieved March 11, 2018.
  3. Feather, Leonard. Original liner notes to Judgment!
  4. Spellman, A. B. Original liner notes to Black Fire.
  5. Rosenthal, David (1992). Hard bop: Jazz and Black music, 1955-1965. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195085566. OCLC 23693923.
  6. Litweiler, John (1984), The Freedom Principle: Jazz After 1958. Da Capo, pp. 116–118.
  7. "Andrew Hill: Biography" Boosey & Hawkes Retrieved August 14, 2008.
  8. Original liner notes to Smokestack.
  9. Ratliff, Ben (February 24, 2006). "Andrew Hill: One Man's Lifelong Search for the Melody in Rhythm". Retrieved March 11, 2018.
  10. Ratliff, Ben (April 21, 2007). "Andrew Hill, 75, Jazz Artist Known for His Daring Style, Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved January 2, 2008. Andrew Hill, a pianist and composer of highly original and sometimes opaquely inner-dwelling jazz whose work only recently found a wide audience, died yesterday at his home in Jersey City. He was 75.
  11. "The State of Jazz: Meet 40 More Jersey Greats", The Star-Ledger, September 28, 2003, backed up by the Internet Archive as of September 27, 2008. Accessed September 15, 2017. "Andrew Hill -- Pianist and composer Hill, who lives in Jersey City, is an artist who can meld the past modes of jazz with its current streams."
  12. Lyles, Ronald (September 24, 2011). "Andrew Hill Discography".
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