PRESS FOR INTERSTELLAR ADVENTURES
Several critics have cited pianist Theo Hill as a rising star, and in one way that's apropos given Interstellar Adventures being the title of his latest release, his second on the Posi-Tone label. But "rising" needs to be updated nowadays, and even more so after this trio date with bassist Rashaan Carter and drummer Rudy Royston. The songs on Interstellar Adventures, particularly "Cyclic Episode" (a Sam Rivers tune off the 1965 album Fuchsia Swing Song) and "Gyre," fall comfortably between Hill's impressionistic collages of sound, often delivered with a bell-like sonority, and the unrelenting furious passages that can leave a listener breathless.On “The Comet,” Hill’s trio reaches the launching pad and soars into space with Royston at the throttle.
The ensemble’s clearly in orbit on “Retrograde,” and Carter’s bass has a pulsing oscillation that surfaces again with good notice on “For Those Who Do.” On these occasions, Hill is content to let his cohort apply the groove, while he teases out scintillating fragments, before presenting longer, more invigorating portraits from one end of the keyboard to the other. There’s an inviting warmth to his ballads, although the arrival of a steadily propulsive left-hand is more than welcome. On “Revelations” and “Enchanted Forest,” the bandleader evokes a celeste tonality (or is that celestial), and it’s clear that the rising star has fully ascended.
There currently is much talk about Afrofuturism, mostly generated by the box office smash Black Panther, and Hill’s cosmic flights might be the film’s musical counterpart. 4 1/2 stars -Downbeat
Interstellar Adventures makes good on the promise displayed on 2017’s Promethean, the young pianist’s debut for Posi-Tone, and 2015’s Live at Smalls, his first as a leader. It also far surpasses them in originality and pluck. Where the earlier outings, particularly Promethean, showed Hill to be an imaginative player with one eye focused keenly on tradition and the other eagerly searching beyond it, the new set finds Hill increasingly willing to burn bridges with his influences and carve out his own territory.
Like its predecessor, the new release is a trio recording, with Rashaan Carter playing basses and Rudy Royston drums. Half of its 10 tracks are penned solely by Hill, including the opening title track, which eases in cautiously, allowing the group to find its way around the melody before agreeing to embellish and discard as needed. Hill’s “Gyre” skitters, slashes and sways, leaving Carter and especially Royston to their own devices as the pianist, in an absorbing solo section, offers transitory single-note suggestions he may or may not choose to stick with very long. It’s almost giddy in its gleeful execution, balancing mathematical precision with frenzied abandon.
Of the covers, Tony Williams’ “Black Comedy” and Jan Hammer’s “Thorn of a White Rose” are corkers. Hill isn’t one to use velocity for its own sake; when he does, as in the former, he dazzles but his point isn’t so much to pat his own back as to keep the tune in constant forward motion. Royston, on the latter, nods to the megaton drumming of Elvin Jones, who cut the tune four decades earlier, but he never loses sight of the new places Hill and Carter opt to take it. -Jazztimes
Hot on the heels of his heralded 2017 effort Promethean, the five covers and five originals on his latest Interstellar Adventures serve as rousing calling-cards for Theo Hill as he continues his steady, determined ascent into the contemporary ranks of vital and inspired jazz pianists.
With the exciting, percussive talents of bassist Rashaan Carter and drummer Rudy Royston seemingly joined at the hip with the leader, the opening title-track is an enticing, melodic reverie in the standard trio vein; throughout the tune's delicious five-plus minutes, it brings to the fore Hill's deep understanding of melody and how to build tension and release within it. Tony Williams' energetic, Miles' Quintet-era "Black Comedy" jumps early and often, its stop-start arrangement perfectly suited to Carter & Royston's lengthy CVs. Hill highlights it all here, his adventurous right hand holding and jettisoning William's punchy melody, while his left explores a harder edge. "Retrograde" finds Hill on electric piano for some snappy, poppy swing. Royston is essential here, percolating behind the leader like those old Return to Forever days.
Two of the lengthier cuts, "The Comet" and "Gyre,"—both Hill originals—shine more light on the pianist's many strengths, nuance and assured tonality among them. "The Comet" is all percussion, Hill's left hitting as hard as Royston, with Carter driving both onward. "Gyre," like "Interstellar Adventures," starts with a strong melodic interlude before giving way to full-throttle trio interplay. The trio rolls truthfully on Jan Hammer's "Thorn of a White Rose," giving a far-less cluttered rendering here than the excessive mid-70's fusion provided the song originally. Mulgrew Miller's "For Those Who Do," taken at a languid pace, serves to reveal Hill's quiet, old-school tendencies for romantic flair. With Hill back on his electric piano, this exciting session closes with his restive "Enchanted Forest," giving the listener a quiet moment to take in all that's been heard, before pressing repeat play. 4 stars - All About Jazz
"Carter and Royston are a phenomenal rhythm section - the former a real under-the-radar master - yet Hill is firmly in command of the session, pointing the way every moment. His playing is at its most sophisticated and assertive, synthesizing all sorts of things that have come before, from the '60s Miles Davis Quintet through McCoy Tyner, Brad Mehldau and Jason Moran, and he now has a strong, personal voice to go with his terrific pianism. The foundation of straight ahead swing is always there and so is a fully integrated modernism, elements of rock and funk. There's not a weak spot on the record. In fact it seems like it gets better and better as it goes along." -The New York City Jazz Record
"Theo Hill just seems to get better and better as the years go on - a fantastically sensitive pianist, but one with a hell of a lyrical swing as well - here moving into territory that might even rival Cedar Walton or Kenny Barron at their best!" -Dusty Groove
"Not hearing any throw backs to Chick Corea's 7th Galaxy stuff here, just loads of creative improv jazz piano trio work that stays on point throughout." -Midwest Record
PRESS FOR PROMETHEAN
"Theo Hill, a vital young pianist at play in New York's straight-ahead tradition, has a new album out. It's called "Promethean," and it tells you what you need to know about him: Harmonically, he's got a bright and tangy palette; rhythmically, he shifts gears easily and often, weaving in traffic and keeping you engaged. His compositions sometimes betray a subtle Caribbean influence, as well as the standard markers of postbop." -The New York Times
"the dominant motif of Promethean is that of a young pianist reveling in the imperial command of his instrument" -JazzTimes
"The record is ample evidence that the thirty-something New York City-based artist is rapidly securing a place in the crowded field of noteworthy contemporary jazz pianists...Hill's interpretations of a wide range of material and his exhilarating improvisations make Promethean an impressive recording"
-All About Jazz
"it's Hill's formidable piano chops and probing arrangements that make this album such a winning statement" -Downbeat
"The music is alive with intelligent nuance, stylish surety and tonal allure." -JAZZdaGAMA
"Hill is an undisputed contender waiting for his change at the crown." -Midwest Record
"The only original piece "The Phoenix" comes at the disc's exact midpoint, and it's a burner, allowing Whitfield in particular to go wild as Hill strikes heavy left hand chords and erupts in right hand extrapolations that recall McCoy Tyner and Vinve Guaraldi in equal measure." -The Wire