Buck Hill: But Beautiful


But Beautiful


Buck Hill (tenor sax)


I'm Beginning to See the Light (Muse 5449)

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Buck Hill (tenor sax),

Jon Ozment (piano), Carroll Dashiell (bass), Warren Shad (drums)


Composed by Johnny Burke & Jimmy Van Heusen


Recorded: New York, June 12, 1991


Rating: 93/100 (learn more)

There's a great 1960 William Claxton photograph of Buck Hill standing in his postman's uniform on the steps of a house, saxophone held to his mouth, while neighborhood children play in front of him. The "Jazz Postman" or "Wailin' Mailman" worked 40 years for the U.S. Postal Service in his hometown of Washington, D.C., where as a teenager he studied music with a teacher who had also taught a young Duke Ellington. Hill chose this secure day job in order to support his family, playing local jazz gigs at night and recording as a leader when such opportunities finally came along starting in 1978.

Hill's treatment of the ballad "But Beautiful" is an excellent example of his polished and confident hard-bop style, most similar to Dexter Gordon's. (Hill was born four years after Gordon.) The first thing you notice is Hill's robust sound, as he unhurriedly embellishes the melody with runs that often end in deep bass notes. As he embarks on his solo, piercing inflections are introduced, and he effectively utilizes wide interval leaps to add spice and emotional bite to his musings. Ozment plays a profoundly lyrical solo with an endearingly light touch. Hill's soulful return to the theme culminates in an inventively sustained and resolved coda. Fortunately, Buck Hill got to record enough gems like "But Beautiful" to lift this local legend out of nearly total obscurity and towards some semblance of a wider audience, as well as to generate a fair amount of critical acclaim.

Reviewer: Scott Albin

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