Scott Hill

Narrow Streets

       Scott Hill likes to feature the element of surprise in his music by incorporating themes from various global ethnic styles which are rooted in the jazz and classic idioms. The San Francisco Bay area clarinetist/soprano saxophonist has once again done just that with stimulating effort in his current CD, Narrow Streets. This is Hill's second self-produced project, releasing Steps in 2000.

Spending a year in Europe, the 32-year-old Hill recorded his six-track album of original compositions in France. He is joined by Mark Dodge, drums; Michael Felberbaum, guitar; and Stephan Kerecki, bass. The hiatus from the States has inspired Hill to new heights of artistic splendor.

While the clarinet is an almost forgotten instrument in modern jazz circles today (contemporaries Eddie Daniels and Don Byron, notwithstanding, are helping to keep the instrument in the forefront), Hill revitalizes it with fresh and thought-provoking perspective.

Playing his clarinet with a rich, full timbre, Hill's musical offerings on this CD are technically challenging but are not too cerebral to keep the music from swinging. 

Hill's surreal technique shines in a playful way on Nervous Conversations with Felberbaum's haunting guitar and Kerecki's walking bass lines adding a hypnotic groove effect. 

Hill attacks Question & Answer with a neo-classical approach. The piece swings with a funky beat coupled with different time changes courtesy of Felberbaum and Kerecki. Below the surface, Dodge gives the tune a serious "push" with some furious drumming on the tom-toms.

Soaring on free-falling runs, Hill doesn't stray far from his classical roots on You Think Too Much.

The clarinetist's appreciation for Middle Eastern music is apparent in 101 Names, giving the piece an exotic texture.

Albuterol, a bouncy, up-tempo piece, recalls the tight ensemble give-and-take sounds from Benny Goodman's 1945-46 sextet recordings. Ironically, Hill stated in a previous interview that he was never crazy about the "King of Swing's" artistry.

The album closes with the melancholy Sorry Leaving with Hill gliding tastefully free and uninhibited in the upper register.

Hill's music has much to offer. It's fresh, innovative and artistically stimulating. This album leaves the listener wanting more. Hopefully, it won't be another three years before we hear more of Scott Hill on CD!

Track selections:  Nervous Conversations, Question & Answer, You Think Too Much, 101 Names, Albuterol, Sorry Leaving.

Recorded at Studio Guimick, Yerres, France on March 25-27, 2002. Total time: 35:13

- Stephen Fratallone/Jazz Connection Magazine

Rating:  ****

To order Narrow Streets, log on to Scott Hill's website at  http://www.scott-hill.com/  

*****

Jazz Connection Magazine     .     February  2003    .     www.jazzconnectionmag.com