SOMETIME AGO I mused upon the concept of a "typical" or "quintessential" 1960s Blue Note release -- you know, the great, weighty philosophical question, "If somebody from another planet asked you for ONE Blue Note album (from their 60s epoch), which one would you give him/her/it?" Or, a wayward cousin or friend that needs help in finding the Right Path in life.... Anyway, I put forth (in a review a couple or so months back) the proposition that Art Blakey's Indestructable or something by Jackie McLean would fill the bill nicely. And they would, but I'm listening to the reissue of Andrew Hill's Black Fire for the 4th of 5th time today, and I think this'd be a 3-way-tie. Everything about this screams "this is the best of the best, darn it!" But there are some aspects that set in apart even from its excellent BN brethren: Roy Haynes, f'r instance, seems to be a bit more in the foreground than most BN drummers, which suits me fine as not only does Mr. RH "keep time" and swing-like-mad, but he also has a "busy" style and while most drummers w/ "busy" styles usually bug me (as a lot of 'em sound "busy" for the sake of showing-off their "technique"), RH is so crisp, sizzling, and creative throughout, he could get equal billing w/ Mr. Hill. And Hill: he is such a joy to listen to with his son-of-T. Monk style, spare and whimsical and angular, but his style is dryer (as in, more cerebral, though not staid) and industrious than Monk, his lines flowing more, with a studious, pensive (though not overcast), and gentle logic. He avoids flash and facile bebop piano runs, and while not exactly a "minimalist," his solos are not-a-second-longer than they need to be. Joe Henderson is really swell here, his tone somewhere between diamond-hard Rollins and the creamy-core smoothness of Getz, Al Cohn and Zoot Sims. He's practically Monk-like on the horn, at that! Richard Davis is The Rock -- no wonder Stravinsky wanted him for a session! Stylistically, Black Fire -- Hill's BN debut, btw -- is somewhere between the hard-bop BN was famous for and the envelope-pushing avant-garde that the label would also document -- it's structured like hard bop, but while there's swing, there's none of the usual "cooking" in the usual hard-bop sense. There's an openness and freedom to the playing, yet there's no gratuitous skronk or "extended technique" for its own sake, nor any of the rage present in the 60s avant garde. Hill's compositions take the best from each style and leave the chaff/clichés/excess alone. Yes indeed, those aliens are sure gonna be happy with this one!