Uh-Huh! Buck Hill Live at Montpelier
Recorded 1999/ Released 2000 (This second CD on the JazzMont label is currently SOLD OUT)
- You Don’t Know Me Like You Think You Do
- Blue Five
- Minor Mode Blues
- Huh? Unh-uh. Uh Huh!
- Total Beauty
In 1984, a soft-spoken, distinguished looking gentleman walked into my office and asked me if the Arts Center ever rented out the Main Gallery for jazz performances. I explained that while we did occasionally rent the Main Gallery for public performances, we could do so only when the exhibition scheduled permitted. I mentioned that the center did, however, present concerts itself including a chamber music series, which would include one jazz concert in the following season. I added that I had been thinking of possibly offering a separate jazz series as well, and suggested he send me a tape and resume if he would like to be considered. The gentleman said he lived just down the street and said he would drop something by soon.
The next day I received the promised cassette tape and promotional materials. I listened to the first four bars and became at once awestruck and embarrassed: a genius had visited me the day before and I had not recognized him. Yes, despite several recent and highly successful engagements in New York, many superb records on a good label, and several acclaimed European tours, Buck Hill was still not well known, as he should have been outside the Washington, D.C. area. Growing up in the Philadelphia area, I was completely unaware of the brilliance of his artistry, and of his fascinating life story. To my credit, I wasted no time in calling him to apologize for my ignorance and begged him to play in our new jazz series.
From that point, it was not long before Buck Hill became an essential member of the Montpelier community of artists, and was recognized as the “Dean of Montpelier Musicians.” From his first performance in 1985, his powerful, driving style has electrified Montpelier audiences. He has developed a loyal following who demands that he play here at least 3 times per year, including at the Annual Spring Music Festival, which attracts over 15,000. Because of his selfless, generous devotion to his art and his colleagues, he helped me develop the Montpelier Jazz Series into a significant showcase for regional musicians. It was he who suggested such great local performers as: Abdu Raschid Ya Ya, The Howard University Jazz Ensemble, The UDC Jazz Ensemble, Art Monroe, and Keter Betts, another essential member of the Montpelier community. It was he who helped me make contact and then convince Charlie Byrd to play at Montpelier. It was on the solid foundation of Buck Hill, Keter Betters, and Charlie Byrd that the Montpelier Jazz Series was built. I came to know Buck as the dedicated family man and consummate artist who continued the arduous discipline of endless practice, composition, and performance at the most challenging level of the Jazz idiom while working a demanding full-time job with the postal service. Besides earning him the moniker “The Pulsating Postman,” his life serves as a model of the hardworking artist who maintains a solid family life and sincere commitment to his community.
- Richard Zandler, 2000
Buck Hill is a living treasure. He is the consummate artist, possessing both extraordinary discipline and compelling passion for his craft. His talent as a performer is equaled only by his own prowess as a composer and arranger. His music is a perfect blend of be-bop, swing, and straight- ahead jazz which has been dazzling audiences for over 40 years. Born in 1927, Buck Hill started playing the saxophone when he was 13 years old. While attending Armstrong High School, he studied the instrument both in school and on stage in local D.C. jazz clubs. In 1948 he married the lovely Helen Weaver. In a few years they had three small children, making it necessary for Buck to take two jobs: taxi driving and mail delivery. Despite the demands of family and work, Buck continued a rigorous regimen of practice and performance. His appearances in the 50s were so impressive that his reputation grew dramatically, leading to gigs with great jazz artists like Dizzy Gillespie as they passed through town. After a while, he was in such demand that he quit the post office to maintain his schedule of performances. By 1957, he was often performing with other local jazz greats Charlie Byrd and Keter Betts. In that same year he made his first recording with Charlie Byrd as the leader.
As a result of the dominance of rock music in the 1960’s, Buck returned to the Postal Service. He continued to perform at local clubs and devoted himself to teaching jazz as well. Many years later, one of his most successful students, renowned drummer Bill Hart, arranged for Buck to re launch his recording career with the Danish recording Company Steeplecase. In 1978 they recorded “This is Buck Hill,” and later “Scope” which featured Hill’s superb compositions.
Before long, Hill’s career soared, including numerous appearances at the North Sea Jazz Festival in Holland and a triumphant engagement in New York City (1982) hailed by the Village Voice and the New York Post. He went on to play in France, Canada, throughout the eastern United States. Other great albums also followed, including the classic, “Buck Hill Uphill,” and the fabulous “Capitol Hill.” He has recorded albums for Poly-gram-Verve, Turning Point, Muse and Improv Records. He now plays regularly at Blues Alley in Washington, D.C. as well as yearly at the East Coast Jazz Festival.