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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Andrew Hill through the kaleidoscope...., November 28, 2006
This review is from: New Monastery (Audio CD)
Guitarist Nels Cline is adamant this is not a "tribute record" but just "a view": I'm not sure what the distinction really means, but I guess it's just his way of pointing to the fact that he's not setting out to render these compositions "faithfully". Though I have no idea how you would even do that: Hill's tunes seem to me to be at once highly structured & yet demanding a more active, _shaping_ role of the player than most other tunes -- witness the way that bassist Richard Davis & drummers like Roy Haynes, Joe Chambers, Tony Williams & Elvin Jones played key roles on Hill's early albums. It's not so much that the tunes require "loose" or "aggressive" playing, as that they require as equally personal & oblique response from the musician (a "straight" rhythm section would render the tunes completely pointless). Anyway, Cline tackles the tunes in a highly free-form way, collaging them together & often ignoring set structures & instead turning them into kaleidoscopes, fragments of motifs & moods & ideas that circulate freely within open-ended improvisations. It's totally organic, not at all forbiddingly "abstract", & often a lot of fun--& there's also a nice holiday in the middle of the disc with the one "straight" tune, a portmanteau of the blues line "Yokada Yokada" and the Lee Morgan-associated boogaloo "The Rumproller".

The rhythm section is the Nels Cline Singers trio (Devin Hoff and Scott Amendola); the front-line is an unusual blend indeed: accordionist Andrea Parkins (who gives a playful/foreboding vibe to the disc that reminds me of Henry Threadgill's _Where's Your Cup_), clarinettist Ben Goldberg, and (best of all) the veteran cornetist Bobby Bradford, whose soulful, idiosyncratic sound & quirky ear are strongly in evidence. Nels Cline himself plays for the band rather than grabbing a lot of solo space, but his contributions are excellent throughout, from his gentle trip to "McNeil Island" to his roaring, distortion-laden tumult on "Compulsion". I found the longest track a bit draggy -- the 23-minute "No Doubt / 11/8 / Dance with Death" -- but everything else here works extremely well. One of the best discs of 2006. Who knows, it might even win over that hardcore Blue Note fan you know....
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars surprisingly straight-forward, December 9, 2006
Anthony Cooper (Louisville, KY United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: New Monastery (Audio CD)
Nels Cline is an original guitarist -- the music he comes up with is fairly unique. Sometimes, like on his CD "The Giant Pin", it can be a little frustrating because it can get too wild and wooly. One radio DJ said Nels Cline had more chops than any other guitarist. I'm not sure how'd you'd evaluate that, but I haven't heard him play technically difficult stuff. So, I was expecting "New Monastery" to be fairly abstract.

It's clear from the beginning that Nels Cline has found a sweet spot between outer space and the mainstream with the music of Andrew Hill. It's a fairly straightforward jazz CD, the guitar tones are mostly clean, though more astringent than Pat Metheny. Cornetist Bobby Bradford plays a combination of "inside" and "outside". Accordianist Andrea Parkins handles the piano parts but of course the instrument itself puts a new twist on the songs. The band is filled out with Ben Goldberg on clarinet and Nels' regular partners Scott Amendola on drums and Devin Hoff on bass. Nels' brother Alex plays percussion on two songs.

I'm by no means an Andrew Hill expert, so I can't compare all the originals with these versions. The songs are good enough that there's no sense worrying about comparisons, Nels' versions stand up on their own. My only criticism is the 23-minute-long centerpiece of the album, "No Doubt / 11/8 / Dance With Death" isn't that great. It's too free jazzy for my tastes, I've read some reviews praising the medley. Still, a highly recommended album.
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New Monastery - A View Into the Music of Andrew Hill
New Monastery - A View Into the Music of Andrew Hill by Nels Cline/Wally Shoup/Greg Campbell
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