Ron Horton - Trumpet, Flugelhorn
Marty Ehrlich - Alto Saxophone, Bass Clarinet (on Prayer for Andrew, Dusk, ML, Tough Love, Belleza #1)
John O'Gallagher - Alto Saxaphone (on all others)
Marc Mommaas - Tenor Saxophone
Frank Kimbrough - Piano
Dean Johnson - Bass
Tim Horner - Drums
There’s something determined – almost stubborn – in Andrew Hill’s music. A declaration in every note. Andrew’s music is not unvarnished or raw, it’s more unbending. You don’t pick up and read through an Andrew Hill tune, you try to enter a world view. A new perspective. A strange truth, plainly told.
Ron Horton fell in love with the music of Andrew Hill in the early 80's, at a time when many of Andrew's albums were difficult to find. Most of what are now considered his "classic Blue Note albums” were long out of print, and other albums were issued in Europe and Japan and difficult to obtain. Ron’s friend, pianist Frank Kimbrough, a unique light in his own right who tragically passed in 2020, was also a true devotee of Andrew’s. Ron and Frank would often get together to scour old record shops and libraries, then head to Frank’s apartment to listen to their latest Andrew Hill “finds.” They grew so enamored with Andrew’s distinctive genius that they transcribed dozens of his tunes and arrangements.
There is devotion in the act of transcribing. The countless repetitions, the deep listening, the attention to the tiniest of minutia. Moments of sound, frozen, anatomized, and ruminated over. It’s liturgical. So after Frank started an actual correspondence with Andrew — and Andrew came in person to one of Ron and Frank’s performances — Ron was understandably awestruck.
Andrew learned that Ron had transcribed a bunch of his older works and invited him to bring the charts to Andrew’s home in New Jersey. After warmly inviting Ron into his home, he piled the transcriptions onto his little console piano, and started reading through them.
“He was playing very slowly and very appreciatively. I was hoping he would enlighten me on some of the details, but he was playing it like he was playing somebody else’s music. He played it like he never heard it before. And then he started circling and changing things in a red pen. And he was changing things that I knew were “right.” I finally asked if he had the originals, and he said he had lost them 25 to 30 years before.”
The next time Ron heard Andrew’s band, he was playing these “new” tunes but they sounded completely different. Andrew had changed everything. As Andrew invited Ron over more and more often to work on the music, Ron became a regular member of the band, and the de facto arranger.
Around this time, his head still full of the strange truth of Andrew’s music, Ron convened a full big band to play expanded versions of Andrew’s tunes. Andrew, who came to the concert with a huge bouquet of flowers for Ron, loved the new direction and eventually even joined him to collaborate on a big band project together.
After Andrew passed in 2007, Ron would continue to revisit this music in his own groups, most notably in a ten-piece band co-led with drummer Tim Horner between 2009-2016. It was this band that was the final catalyst for the sextet that is heard on these records.
"This is not a tribute record. We've been playing this music for decades. The feeling we get when we play Andrew’s music is indescribable. We LOVE playing Andrew’s music. We glow when we play it. It’s emotional. Andrew is in the room."
A couple of months ago, Ron asked if he could send me these tracks, featuring the music of Andrew and my old teacher Frank Kimbrough on piano. I told him I would be absolutely honored to hear the record but that we don’t release music we don’t record personally. But after a couple of minutes listening to the mixes I was transfixed. Ron and the band have created a treasure here. This is an album that to my ears does close to the impossible: an intricate, harmonically ambitious, melodically serpentine record that speaks only and stubbornly of love. A strange truth, plainly told.
– Elan Mehler
Quotes from Ron Horton