Customer Review

17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelled., June 5, 2007
This review is from: Compulsion (Audio CD)
Much has been said about the musical qualities of this album, but I feel like the cultural side of it has been ignored, and considering that the latter informs the former, I thought I might go about offering my two cents on the issue.

Compulsion is by far one of Andrew Hill's more difficult albums. More than just a percussion-heavy blowing session, Compulsion is a concept album with a definite statement to make not only about music, but the culture it belongs to, and the culture it creates. Hill did not set out to create an album to demonstrate that the piano is a percussion instrument, though he uses it as such--it had been done years before him, lessons he learned and absorbed as he endeavored to create an album that displayed the "African kinds of rhythms... field cries... [that are] the basic roots of jazz."

The above quote (and all others) comes from the liner notes for Compulsion, which are excellently written, and in which Andrew Hill is particularly revealing concerning the compositional intent of each song. It seems to be that the only way one can not like this album (aside from just despising music) would be to ignore Hill's own words.

Each track, and the album as a whole, has deep cultural resonance for Hill. "Compulsion" draws on polyrhythmic African percussion as the musicians fluctuate between conversations with one another and statements of their own, drawing a sketch of the creative process, and the compelling need to identify oneself even if it is nothing more than an erratic, improvised screech. "Legacy" is even more indebted to African rhythms, specifically summoning the African past of the African-American experience and drawing it consciously into music.

I consider the final two tracks to be some of the most mature and affirming that Hill has ever composed. Their cultural themes resonate even today and their universal appeal towards understanding oneself transcend any single race or ethnicity. About "Premonition", Hill notes that "before you become aware of the strength and extent of your tradition, you have to have some kind of premonition of what has already transpired as well as of what is to come. I mean `premonition' as indicating not alone a look ahead, but rather a sufficiently revealing look backward so that you can really begin to know what may come."

The album ends with uncertainty on the final track, "Limbo". For Hill, this is a state between decision, without affirmation or condemnation, and where Hill sees his culture stuck. His final statement on this song remains relevant for all cultures 40 years after the album was released: "They'd rather float in space, hoping, than look into their heritage and take strength from that. Again, this has nothing to do with racism. Knowing who you are and what your roots are is positive, healthy knowledge, for, after all, we all seek identity and our future is more secure if we know our past."

As for the musicians on this date, they are all in top form. Hubbard has a real grasp on the individual sound that Hill is striving for, and Gilmore is just awesome. As incredible as his saxophone playing is, it is really the bass clarinet that adds the most color to this session. And, yet again, Joe Chambers is remarkable behind the kit. His compositional bend towards playing informs each stroke while his flawless feel for the difficult time provides solid support for the other players. If one has a particular interest in percussion, the percussion trio of Chambers, Qadar, and Simmons will not disappoint.

Compulsion should be understood as a statement about that past, the present it has resulted in, and the future that it could become. It is Hill's most cohesive album, an album driven from the opening notes by concept and purpose, but it is also one of Hill's most difficult albums, and most rewarding.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jun 25, 2007 8:24:27 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 25, 2007 8:25:24 PM PDT
JoeyD says:
One of the best reviews I have ever read on Amazon. You absolutely nailed it! I was going to write a 5 star review on this one, but after reading yours, there is nothing I can write that could even remotely compare to this. Great job and keep em coming!
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