Tenor saxophonist Buck Hill didn't have a bassist to accompany him for half of his first two sets at Trumpets Friday night, but it was still business as usual. With or without Geoff Harper's nimble support, Hill was in fine form, giving "Blue Bossa" a boppish lilt, soulfully reprising "My Foolish Heart" and barreling through his own "Two Chord Molly" with energy to spare. Though not all pieces were in place all of the time, it was still an invigorating performance.
While "Two Chord Molly," a corkscrew melody tied to a tumbling Latin rhythm, demonstrated Hill's drive and agility as well as anything he performed during the evening, the results were similarly impressive (and Hill's tone similarly commanding) when the focus shifted to Sonny Rollins's "Tenor Madness." After all, it's just the sort of harmonic steeplechase that Hill routinely and robustly glides through.
A couple of Thelonious Monk tunes -- a vibrant "Straight No Chaser" and an elliptical reading of " 'Round Midnight" with subtle R&B overtones -- also ranked among the evening's highlights and were among several tunes that revealed the sharp affinity pianist Bob Butta and drummer Lenny Robinson have for Hill's no-frills approach.