Point of Departure (The Rudy Van Gelder Edition Remastered)
Almost exactly one month after they recorded Eric Dolphy’s classic ‘Out to Lunch!’, bassist Richard Davis, drummer Tony Williams, and Dolphy himself went into the studio with pianist/composer Andrew Hill to record Point of Departure. It was Hill’s fourth outing on Blue Note, but it became his best known, an enigmatic standout in a field of groundbreaking albums on the label. Trumpeter Kenny Dorham and tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson completed the extraordinary lineup.
As both a composer and a player, Hill did not fit anyone’s preconceptions. He attracted the greatest of musicians but didn’t gain a mass following and became an elusive figure until his late-career renaissance. He stood apart for his opaque, unresolving harmonic language, bristly melodic themes, and unusual song forms, not to mention his acidic piano improvisations, rooted in the legacy of Thelonious Monk but very much a breed apart. Point of Departure remains distinctly representative of his sound: It is of the post-bop mainstream in terms of underlying swing feel and discernible solo rotation, but avant-garde in its sonic intensity and searching disposition.
Dolphy’s alto sax and bass clarinet push the sonic envelope, as does Williams’ loose and ceaselessly interactive drumming (a space-age feel he brought to the Miles Davis Quintet in this period). Among the many jaw-dropping moments in “Spectrum,” we hear the paired flutes of Dolphy and Henderson against Dorham’s subtle muted trumpet. “Refuge” and “Flight 19” share a certain restlessness and motivic coherence, while “New Monastery” is slower and slinkier (the title a sideways reference to Monk). “Dedication,” a deep-blue ballad, eases the set to a close.
Following his astounding but (at the time) unheralded Blue Note run, Hill recorded for other labels before enjoying not one but two Blue Note comebacks—in the late ’80s and again in 2005 with the ravishing Time Lines, just two years before his death at age 75.