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'Dusk' Glows

Pianist Andrew Hill has been described as enigmatic, much like his music, which is full of dense chords, asymmetrical melodies and unexpected pauses. With Dusk, his first effort in 10 years, the author of the 1964 classic Point of Departure delivers an album that's full of contrasting tones, colors and rhythms.

The playing here is stellar, courtesy of a sextet that includes saxophonists Marty Ehrlich and Greg Tardy, trumpeter Ron Horton, bassist Scott Colley and drummer Billy Drummond. Though Hill's playing may have lost some of its luster, compositionally he is as strong as ever.

Dusk's holistic feel signals that Hill's choice of material was deliberate. The title cut (RealAudio excerpt of title track) starts with a Monk-like solo piano before unfolding into a set of enticing rhythmic twists and melodic turns. "T.C." (RealAudio excerpt), a tribute to the late multireed player Thomas Chapin, features both Tardy and Ehrlich on bass clarinet. The song "15/8" (RealAudio excerpt) is, as the title suggests, a fast-paced romp through a harmonic minefield, resulting in a tenor-and-drum battle that evokes the spirit of John Coltrane and Elvin Jones.

The band plays Hill's ever-shifting scores, rife with melodic richness and rhythmic contrast, with passion and superb execution.

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