Points and Departures: On the Radio with Andrew Hill

As I have written about lately, I have been almost as busy as my brother even though it is my “summer vacation”. This year offers many points of transition for me–we bought a house and moved, I got tenure, I have a book coming out, etc. and blah, blah, blah. If my enthusiasm seems tepid it is not because I am not thankful but just because I am so sure that too much of this good fortune is due to chance.

(By the way, even if it outs me as me, I don’t really care, here’s a link to the book).

And, as my brother knows (I think), I have been wrestling with whether or not I really should be spending so much time on this blog. I feel hypocritical for writing a blog when I find it hard to read most blogs (for many, many reasons) and since I know that what I want to do with it is so far from what a blog typically is (and, I fear, from what I am capable of). I found myself returning again and again to the idea of a blog as a useless solipsism, as an exercise (like much of the internet) in masturbatory self-reference.

(Oh, and a way for companies like Google and Facebook to turn our leisure and relationships in to commodities. And a way for the NSA and CIA to track our speech. You know, bread, circus, brothel and self-incrimination all wrapped into one.)

But all of such concerns went out the hill yesterday when I turned on the local jazz station and heard the first half of the 1964 Blue Note Release Point of Departure by Andrew Hill. The first song (“Refuge”) is somewhere between standard and free jazz with some truly insane solos. There is a melody that chaotically fragments and returns–the piece is driven by the piano, but the instrumentalists are phenomenal.

Seriously, my brother, if you are impatient, check out the bass solo that starts at 6:25. Les Claypool must have heard something like this in his dreams as a child. And the transition from drum solo back to full band at minute 11 is just too sexy not to mention. And to understand the virtuosity of these musicians, check out the live clip:

So, as I was speeding along on another trip to Best Buy or some similar place while educating (or subjecting) my children to this kind of edge-of-the-seat jazz, it occurred to me that I was thinking about this blog all wrong. We (my brother and I) started it to think about music together, to be forced to write down our opinions and ideas if for no one else then at least for each other, and to find new ways to enjoy (new and old) music. We started this blog as a way to stay in touch and in ‘communion’ while three thousand miles apart. We began this not because we wanted to do anything other than to love music and to learning more about it by doing so. We’ve done these things and more. I just need to remind myself occasionally of the wonder that music (and life) can inspire.

But, as we have mentioned before, it is probably the time of year that has me down. Here’s a non-jazz pick-me-up:

Happy Birthday, again, my brother.