Andrew Hill: The Brown Queen


The Brown Queen


Andrew Hill (piano)


Passing Ships (Blue Note 90417)

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Andrew Hill (piano), Woody Shaw (trumpet), Dizzy Reece (trumpet), Julian Priester (trombone), Bob Northern (french horn), Howard Johnson (tuba, bass clarinet), Joe Farrell (soprano sax, tenor sax), Ron Carter (bass), Lenny White (drums).

Composed and arranged by Andrew Hill


Recorded: Englewood Cliffs, NJ, Nov. 7, 1969


Rating: 88/100 (learn more)

"The Brown Queen" is a representative example of the unusual combination of angular disjointedness and warm lyricism that characterized Andrew Hill's playing and writing.

Long buried in the Blue Note vaults, this music was recorded in 1969 but was not released until 2003. A word to the wise: Just because a group contains nine pieces and includes horn and tuba does not mean that its music can or should be judged in comparison to the 'Birth of the Cool' or any of its West Coast offspring.

The tune itself is in ABAB form, with a 20 bar chorus made up of 5-bar phrases. Hill's piano solo is distinctive for its intriguing combination of spare lyricism and simmering tension. Shaw solos in a warm, melodic vein followed by Farrell on tenor whose energetic, rough-toned spot provides good contrast.

Hill's writing for the group is spare and angular with none of the lush smoothness that most other writers get from this type of instrumentation. This aspect of Hill's writing is brought into bold relief by the occasionally sloppy ensemble playing, but the loose, soloistic approach taken by the players fits the music. Another personal touch is evident in Hill's approach to writing material to accompany solos. These passages don't occur "behind" the soloist in the usual sense but rather they seem designed to get up in the soloist's face and challenge him, thereby making these passages feel somewhat more organic and spontaneous than conventional written backgrounds.

Reviewer: Kenny Berger


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