Andrew Hill has been, in the gentlest of cases, an idiosyncratic player, composer, and bandleader. But often, reviews of his work have been quite strident and refer to him as an iconoclast. That's okay; some critics thought of Monk and Herbie Nichols that way, too. Time Lines has Hill back – for the third time in his long career – with Blue Note, the label that gave birth to his enduring classics like Black Fire and Judgment!. But Hill is still every bit the creative and technically gifted musician he was back in the day; perhaps more so. His band features seasoned veteran Charles Tolliver on trumpet, saxophonist Greg Tardy (who also triples on clarinet and bass clarinet, and beautifully, to say the least), and a rhythm section composed of bassist John Herbert and drummer Eric McPherson.
The title of this exceptional disc, “Night Music”, should not be taken to mean that the performances are in any way dark, mysterious, droopy, sluggish, or otherwise conventionally “nocturnal”. Rather, the term evokes its 18th century musical meaning: a time for fun, relaxation, parties, entertainment both indoors and out, and of course, romance. Indeed, “Romantic” is perhaps the best way to describe these virtuosic, impulsive, and extravagantly expressive performances by the inimitable Andrew Manze and his team of crack “authentic-instrument” players.
Brahms’s two sonatas for clarinet and piano, Op 120, composed in 1894, were followed only by the four Serious Songs and a set of organ chorale preludes (some of which may have been written at earlier times). His farewell to chamber music was also his farewell gift to the clarinet. The two works recorded here were preceded by the Clarinet Trio in A minor (Op 114) and the great Clarinet Quintet in B minor (Op 115), and all four masterpieces were inspired by the playing of Richard Mühlfeld, principal clarinettist of the Meiningen Orchestra.