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Hill Brings Funk to Jazz on Fine 'Lines'

More than 40 years into his outstanding career, Andrew Hill still creates music as if his best work is ahead of him. It helps that he's established a body of work that occupies a world of its own. For all his eminence, it's difficult to quantify Hill's influence, because his expressive piano playing and formidable compositions haven't produced many imitators.

Still, every time Hill takes a seat behind a piano, the jazz world takes note. "Time Lines" speaks to his brilliance at teetering between the worlds of the blues and the abstract, and it's one of the funkiest compositions in Hill's repertoire.

John Hebert anchors "Time Lines" with a repetitive 10-note bass figure, which quickly ushers in Hill's sparse piano melody. Drummer Eric McPherson links up with Hebert, and the two concoct a push-pull groove that would make West London's broken-beat DJs salivate. Later, saxophonist Greg Tardy and trumpeter Charles Tolliver blow pecking figures, somewhat mirroring Hill's serrated melody, which vaguely recalls a South African highlife hymn.

As "Time Lines" progresses, it takes on a more prismatic quality, with rhythms piling on top of each other and the horn improvisations becoming increasingly rapturous. Remarkably, with all this going on, the groove remains intact. To paraphrase Afrika Bambaataa, it's the sound of a genius looking for the perfect beat.

Listen to yesterday's 'Song of the Day'.

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John Murph
John Murph writes about music and culture and works as a web producer for He also contributes regularly to The Washington Post Express, JazzTimes, Down Beat, and JazzWise magazines.