By Willard Manus
Buck Hill is one of the unsung heroes of jazz. The 80-year-old tenor saxophonist has toured with the likes of Shirley Scott and Shirley Horne, but mostly he has kept close to his home in Washington, DC where for many years he led the house band at the Howard Theatre and also gigged at local clubs. Now at long last Hill has released his own CD, RELAX (Severn Records, www.severnrecords.com)
The summation of his career in jazz, RELAX shows off Hill's multi-faceted gifts as a musician and band leader. On the first cut, for example, he plays some hard-charging bebop, only to switch gears and play slow, soulful blues on Relax and Old Folks. Following are excursions into bossa nova, Miles Davis territory (Flamenco Sketches, Milestones) and a couple of original compositions. At all times Hill (backed by John Ozment, Paul Pieper and Jerry Jones) plays with delicacy, warmth and deepfelt emotion. His is the work of a true master.