Pianist Andrew Hill's most notable contribution to jazz may be his ability to creatively combine bebop with the avant-garde. On 1963's BLACK FIRE, the oft-misunderstood Jazz composer creates a tonal landscape that is at once steeped in Bop, yet ambitiously searching for new harmonic and structural vistas. Joined by legendary drummer Roy Haynes, tenor great Joe Henderson, and bassist Richard Davis, Hill performs a set of nine originals that seek to push the musical envelope. Each musician explores melody, harmony, and rhythm in ways they normally didn't, particularly Henderson, who expertly adapts his style and sound to the tricky compositions of Hill. Every member of the quartet gets a chance to stretch on this album, and there is more "soloing equality" on BLACK FIRE than on most late-'50s or early-'60s records. Indeed, this was the dawning of a new age in Jazz, and Hill was one of this era's greatest pioneers. Standout tracks include the moody and rubato "McNeil Island" and the knotty "Pumpkin."
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