Andrew Hill - Point of Departure (1965), 6/10

I'll be the first to tell you there are aspects of avant-garde and free jazz that are arduous to absorb and enjoy, but this album is an easy listen. The performances are passionate and due to their segmented nature they are put on display for you to take in piecemeal. Andrew Hill, Eric Dolphy, and the prolific Richard Davis display some unique flair and the 6/8 time is refreshing as an opener on "Refuge" then instantly the whole group hypnotizes and seduces in "New Monastery" with smooth yet grounded grooves. "Flight 19" hosts impressive improvisations and group dynamics from the entire group, and it comes at the perfect moment in the record's arc to provide a pleasant and refreshing surprise. "Dedication" then lulls you back to a comforting sense of completion. Dolphy clearly cuts through the mix on practically every track, even his contribution on bass clarinet, his personality is just too potent and individual to miss. While the compositions themselves are pleasing, their foundations are shaky in key moments, leading to an ultimately lackluster experience. From an improvisational standpoint practically every performance is outstanding, but a track like “Refuge” perfectly illustrates how the songs can feel less like a story and more like a set of random improvisations without focus and direction. The record is impressive but uninspiring, even in comparison to some of Hill’s surrounding works of the era.