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Andrew Hill, Jazz Pianist, Dead at 75

By Chuck Sudo in Arts & Entertainment on Apr 23, 2007 2:45PM

2007_04_Hill.jpgThe world of jazz lost another titan in pianist and composer Andrew Hill last Friday at the age of 75. The cause of Mr. Hill's death was lung cancer.

Mr. Hill, a Chicago native, was born June 30, 1937. He began playing the piano at the age of 13, and was mentored by pianist Earl "Fatha" Hines and composer Bill Russo, and studied under classical composer Paul Hindemith. Mr. Hill was a sideman for Dinah Washington and Rashaan Roland Kirk before truly starting his recording career in 1963 with the Blue Note release Black Fire, a once-forgotten record now considered a classic of the jazz oeuvre. As the 60's progressed, Mr. Hill's music became more informed by the modal and free jazz revolution. Mr. Hill spent the 70's and 80's recording for the Arista-Freedom and Soul Note labels, serving as composer-in-residence at Colgate University (where he earned his doctorate), and teaching at Portland State University.

Mr. Hill maintained a relatively low profile until the 2000 release of Dusk on Palmetto records. Dusk was eventually named album of the year by both Jazz Times and Down Beat magazines. The critical success of Dusk resulted in a late-career renaissance and made Hill an in-demand concert attraction. His compositions were marked by sharp changes in rhythm and harmony, thick layers of sound, and genius flights of improvisation. Mr. Hill re-signed with Blue Note (the third time he recorded for the label) and released Time Lines last year. Mr. Hill's website has a page of audio samples, because it's never too late to discover a hidden treasure.