A classic as far as I am concerned. Pianist Andrew Hill leads this cult 1965 session with a procession of black harlequins on a dark carnival of Avant ethno-Jazz that’s stewing in ju-ju & streaming mystique way’ way off the tourist track. Fevered, pouring with perspiration & with a suave tenebrosity, it runs like the sound track to an imaginary voodoo thriller from the least accessible enclave of West Indian obscura in the thrall of celebrating a unique yearly festivity. Many things can be stressed about this great album, but atmospherically, Compulsion!!!!! is off the scales & prowling through the tropical foliage in shape –shifter form, garland of magic bells & chimes bristling in the dead of night.
Hill was probably an awkward artist for Blue Note as they gravitated to more classic & conventional Jazz, a standard Hill was eager to resist/challenge/elaborate on/from. If I am not mistaken, a considerable stack of his recording sessions were never issued until decades later as they were considered too abrogational/Avant-garde. Compulsion stretches the stipulations, creating a hybrid that deliciously revolves & thrives between the two themes – & the black areas between. The application, composition & arrangement of expressions, not to mention much of the actual playing itself, is what really skews & contorts the formalities away from a “traditional” Jazz experience (this is no blow-out or hesitant plink-plonk). Oh’ & the inclusion of two percussionists – Nadi Qamar & Renaud Simmons on congas, African drums, ankle bells & thumb piano. This particular ingredient is integral for the ceremony, which kind of cross-competes (during some stages the percussionists almost sound like they are out of sync, if not in opposition of sorts, like to disparate sessions drifting over each other’s actions). This sounds like a detraction, but it’s not – it results in an almost delirious dichotomy of quasi-independent counterference, like uncontrolled thoughts that keep pace but remain distinctly separate & contrasting. It’s these kind of schizophrenic settings that embody some of the wonderfully weird schemes & ectopic kink of this brackish but beautiful album. Beside the richness of this exotic saturnine flavor, it’s also got major moves/situations that it holds exclusively. Beside Hill on piano & the two aforementioned percussionists, Hill stations a young Cecil McBee on acoustic bass, Freddie Hubbard on trumpet, Joe Chambers on drums (marvelous, restrained but intricate), John Gilmore on tenor sax & on the third track Richard Davis on bass. It’s a relatively short LP, with four tracks. They all seem to reside in roughly the same terrain, except the third – Premonition, the only track on the joint that I don’t really care for. Although hugely differing albums, it’s worth juxtaposing Compulsion with the sublime Marion Brown’s Geechee Recollections LP (another album that heaped on the ethno instrumentation & conscripted traditional percussionists). Both LP’s wield extraordinary power & depth.
Remote regions far from the stultification of civilization, visions of voodoo, strange shapes in low-light, & a phase, occurrence or place where modern laws, formality & logic are both inapplicable & unrecognized – Andrew Hill’s compulsion is an immense treat of pre-captivity sophistication & massively original coiling darkness.
Rekd – 1965
Label – Blue Note