The recorded debut of Andrew Hill's 1956 trio with bassist Malachi Favors and drummer James Slaughter is preserved here in acceptable monophonic sound on Spain's Fresh Sounds label. One has to turn up the volume a bit to get the real feel of the band playing together, but that minor annoyance is easily conquered. The low-end rumbled muffling of Favors' basslines is another matter, however, and requires some real attention by the listener. Recording quality aside, the music on this set more than makes up for it. "So in Love," from the Kiss Me Kate production, is the opener and is notable for Slaughter's contrapuntal 6/8 rhythmic shift against the waltzing rhythm of Hill's left hand and Favors' fills in full three-to-the-measure effect. "Penthouse Party" is likely the most underrated track on the set because of its dance-like rhythms. "Serious-minded" jazz fans of music from the era will no doubt write this off as not being bop enough or swinging in an elemental, super-sophisticated, proto-hard bop style, but they would be full of sh*t. What is truly amazing here is how Hill works a series of Caribbean rhythmic figures into the melody and vamps on them, allowing Favors and Slaughter to move around them in myriad ways, coming up with a series of polyrhythmic themes that Hill then improvises upon. The fact that this is done at all was forward thinking at the time; that it was done in such an uncompromising way and remained accessible is testament to the trio's shrewd musicianship. While there are a number of other standards here, including "Body and Soul" (which this writer votes should be retired in the 21st century to the degree that any fledgling jazz act or veteran, for that matter, would have their instruments taken away for a year for making us listen to it again), "Old Devil Moon," and "Spring Is Here," but the true gem of the set is "Chilonga," a blues-drenched lament of a track that features enough Afro-Cuban folk phrasing to choke a jazz critic -- so much so that the cat who wrote the liner notes here didn't even pick up on it. The lead-in is fiery, full of angles and rushes from Slaughter; Hill, too, with his left hand voices deep minor chords and adds space underneath drums, and Favors runs a groove over the top that brings the tempo to shift downward, where pure singing emotion takes the place of the frenzied tempo and the melody comes flowing in slowly, sadly, beautifully. This is a fine record, and despite certain sonic limitations, a very welcome reissue.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek