Michael Fremer Rated 10/11 Music, 10/11 Sonics!
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Andrew Hill is one of the most distinctive pianists and composing talents in jazz. Yet this profoundly moving session recorded in 1969 sat unreleased until 2003 when it was finally issued on CD through the efforts of Blue Note archivist Michael Cuscuna. Hill penned all seven of Passing Ships' compositions for an ensemble featuring Woody Shaw and Dizzy Reece on trumpet, Julian Priester on trombone, Joe Farrell on saxes, flute and bass clarinet, Howard Johnson on tuba, Bob Northern on French horn, Ron Carter on bass, and Lenny White on drums. Passing Ships stands comparison to Hill's greatest work, and is presented for the first time on vinyl with this Tone Poet Edition.
The Blue Note Tone Poet Series was born out of Blue Note President Don Was's admiration for the exceptional audiophile Blue Note LP reissues presented by Music Matters. Was brought Joe Harley (from Music Matters), a.k.a. the "Tone Poet," on board to curate and supervise a series of reissues from the Blue Note family of labels.
Extreme attention to detail has been paid to getting these right in every conceivable way, from the jacket graphics and printing quality to superior LP mastering (direct from the master tapes) by Kevin Gray to superb 180 gm audiophile LP pressings by Record Technology Inc. Every aspect of these Blue Note/Tone Poet releases is done to the highest possible standard. It means that you will never find a superior version. This is IT.
Blue Note Records' Tone Poet Audiophile Vinyl Reissue Series is produced by Joe Harley and features all-analog, mastered-from-the-original-master-tape 180g audiophile vinyl reissues in deluxe gatefold packaging. Mastering is by Kevin Gray (Cohearent Audio) and vinyl is manufactured at Record Technology Incorporated (RTI).
Blue Note's audiophile-minded Tone Poet series continued this month with the re-release of an album that was recorded over a two-day session in 1969 but somehow sat on a shelf until 2003. Listening to this crystal clear remaster of the work, it makes a small amount of sense why the label opted to keep this unreleased for so long. The performances are a bit wobbly, with the big horn section that Hill utilized for these compositions - a crew that included Julian Priester on trombone, Bob Northern on French horn, and trumpeters Woody Shaw and Dizzy Reece - often stumbling into one another on the way to the melody. Even Hill sounds as if his equilibrium is off during his solos. I find that kind of overreach utterly charming. It humanizes otherwise godly musicians and only makes the moments when they find their collective balance, like the cracking 'Noon Tide,' that much better. This reissue is pressed in a manner befitting the lumbering sound on the vinyl, as there was more music than two LPs could hold and not enough to fill four sides, leaving a totally blank side to one of the discs.
If you need an easy to grasp intro try the title tune (not that the opener 'Sideways' isn't a melodic 'grabber') or for one that's 'melt in your ears' gorgeous, rhythmically, melodically and spatially with Farrell's tenor just about in your lap, try the latin-beat 'Noon Tide' that opens side two. Hill's piano solo will do you in and Carter's bass lines alone are worth the price of admission. Farrell's sensuous, simmering flute lines at the tune's conclusion should finish you off. There's little that's overly cerebral or mathematical about this track or this entire album for that matter, mixed 'in living color' (even the gatefold photos usually in Tone Poet black and white, are in color). Highest recommendation, musically and sonically! One caution: Kevin Gray cut this one appropriated hot so be sure your stylus is super-clean and that your VTF is correctly set or you might experience some break-up that I guaranty you is NOT the record's fault.
- All Analog 180g Vinyl
- Tone Poet Audiophile Vinyl Reissue Series
- Mastered by Kevin Gray at Cohearent Audio
- Mastered From Original Master Tape
- Reissue supervised by Joe Harley
- Pressed at RTI
- Gatefold jacket
- 3 sides of music
- 4th side blank
|Bob Northern||French horn|
|Howard Johnson||tuba, bass clarinet|
|Joe Farrell||soprano sax, tenor sax, alto flute, bass clarinet, English horn|
- Passing Ships
- Plantation Bag
- Noon Tide
- The Brown Queen
- Yesterday's Tomorrow