Jazz saxophonist Buck Hill, born on February 13,1927, is a living legend, who has been dazzling audiences for over forty years.
Buck Hill started playing saxophone at the age of 13. By the mid-fifties, he was married with three children and supporting them by driving a cab and delivering mail. Despite the family demands, he continued to practice and perform. He was discovered by Charlie Byrd and became a regular on the local jazz circuit, appearing with Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, and Shirley Horn. In 1957, he appeared on his first recording with Charlie Byrd and later appeared on numerous recordings with Shirley Horn on the Verve label.
As a result of the dominance of rock music in the sixties, Buck went back to work for the post office. He continued to perform and devoted himself to teaching. Many years later, one of his most successful students, renowned drummer Billy Hart, arranged for Buck to begin his solo recording career with Danish company Steeplechase. “This Is Buck Hill” and “Scope” saw the collaboration of Buck with jazz greats Kenny Barron and Ray Brown.
His performances and recordings received great critical success through the Village Voice and the New York Post. Yet throughout all of his success, he refused to give up his day job as a postman, thus leading to the moniker, the ‘Wailin’ Mailman.’ And that’s where you’ll find Buck in the annals of jazz history.
In the fall of 2000, Buck released “Uh Huh! Live at Montpelier” on the JazzMont label. Buck has been a staple of the local jazz scene at the Montpelier Arts Center since 1985. Eric Brace of the Washington Post said this record contained “…eight original compositions that are so melodically complete and so structurally satisfying that I wonder if they might become standards someday.” Since then Buck has performed at the Kennedy Center and the East Coast Jazz Festival. He still gigs regularly at the famous "One Step Down" jazz club in D.C. If you haven’t seen him play, you really should. How often do you get to see a legend? Let alone, one that delivered your mail.
Buck Hill - "Tenor Madness"
His latest album "Relax" is Hill's first recording since 2000's "Uh-Huh! Buck Hill Live at Montpelier", and the octogenarian shows that he still has the full tone and poise that made his previous recordings so valuable for those in the know. As one might expect, Hill lacks the speed and endurance of earlier years, but he still has enough chops and imagination to put some young bucks to shame.
His treatment of "Old Folks is superb balladry on par with later period Dexter Gordon. Especially enjoyable for me is when he revisits his composition "Little Bossa, a song that first appeared on his Steeplechase release Scope. Hill handles the descending chord progressions with aplomb and solos with passion.
Track listing: RH Blues; Relax; Old Folks; Little Bossa; Flamenco Sketches; Pfrancing; Milestones; Sad Ones.
Personnel: Buck Hill: tenor saxophone; John Ozment: Hammond A100; Paul Pieper: guitar; Jerry Jones: drums.
Reference - AAJ