Last Saturday was "Buck Hill Day" in Washington. Fans, friends and relatives gathered; a mayoral proclamation was issued; congratulations were offered. But Hill--a postal worker by day, a world-class jazz musician by night--isn't one to waste words. A mere "thank you" was all he had to say that night at the Commerce Building Auditorium, where he was honored by the Charlin Jazz Society. Then the soft-spoken saxophonist reached for his instrument and said it all.
It was an exceptional evening of jazz, not just because Hill and his trio (especially bassist Tommy Cecil) were in fine form, barreling through pieces like "Two Chord Molly" with characteristic volume and stamina, or changing the pace with a few surprises, including a sinuously seductive clarinet feature. It was also a success because Hill's guests made it so. Trumpeter Jimmy Owens alternated between Gillespie-like, crackling fire and a warm, incandescent approach to the fluegelhorn that occasionally recalled Art Farmer. Saxophonist David (Fathead) Newman powerfully reinforced Hill's "Brakes," essayed a tender "Old Folks" and pianist Larry Eanet was wonderfully adept at probing the melodic and blues content of Newman's selections.
Next year, Charlin plans to salute another local musician in a similar fashion. It's a commendable idea, but the society will be hard-pressed to find another honoree quite as worthy as Buck Hill.