Chris Hill

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Chris Hills was born on July 18, 1946, and raised in Boston. The musical prodigy became proficient on drums, bass, keyboards, horn, guitar, and composition before he could legally drive. The Free Spirits,…
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Chris Hills was born on July 18, 1946, and raised in Boston. The musical prodigy became proficient on drums, bass, keyboards, horn, guitar, and composition before he could legally drive. The Free Spirits, a jazz-rock band, were his first major musical accomplishment. The lineup consisted of guitarist Larry Coryell, Jim Pepper (tenor sax), Bob Moses (drums), Columbus "Chip" Baker (guitar), and Hills (bass and vocals). Bob Thiele produced their albums on ABC Records, released in 1966-1967. In 1994, Polygram issued their unreleased live album, entitled Tokyo Live.

Slow sales doomed the Free Spirits, but the members stayed viable doing other projects. Hills waxed a solo album in 1969: Everything Is Everything Featuring Chris Hills on Vanguard Records. The musicians were Jim Pepper (tenor sax, flute, vocals), Chip Baker (guitar, vocal), Lee Reinoehl (organ, trumpet), John Waller and Jim Zito (drums), and Hills on the guitar, electric bass, drums, and vocals. The ten tracks included a rendition of John Coltrane's "Naima."

Hills took a fling with All Platinum Records in 1977 as solo soul singer Chris Hills. Only one record surfaced: "Isn't It a Dream Come True" b/w "Till the Last Thrill Is Gone." It was similar to a Thom Bell production on the Spinners, but All Platinum owner Sylvia Robinson -- whom Hills says ran the studio with an iron hand -- didn't mind one bit. Anything for sales, but this one didn't go and Chris decided to form a new jazz-rock band.

Players Association was a studio group put together by Hills and producer Danny Weiss. They were Vanguard Record's house band, but for Players Association recordings they brought in top session players like Larry Coryell, Joe Ferrell, David Sunburn, Tom Harrell, and others. The regular lineup was Chip Baker (guitar), Coryell (guitar), Bobby Moses (drums), Jim Pepper (sax), and Hills (bass). After five albums from 1978 to 1980, the association ended. Lawrence Welk later purchased Vanguard Records.

Hills' session skills kept him busy. He played on albums by Lorraine Frissure, Sally Harmon, Members Only, Mark O' Connor, Josh White Jr., Mike Mandel, Steve Marcus, and others. In the '80s, Hills, Pepper, and others moved to Portland, OR, and continued to gig and record sporadically until Pepper's untimely death in the '90s.