By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Apr 26, 2007 at 1:18 PM

I don't spend a lot of time with Milwaukee jazz guitarist and new Jack Grassel, but we do talk about music fairly often via e-mail and we share a love for the work of the brilliant Andrew Hill, who died last Friday after a long battle with lung cancer. He was 75.

When the subject of Hill's 1966 Blue Note disc "Compulsion" came up, Grassel told me that he was disappointed by the disc and seemed unsurprised that Blue Note hadn't seen fit to reissue it. So, when that reissue did arrive on March 20, I sent a copy to Grassel, who vowed to give it another chance and share his thoughts.

"I just finished listening to 'Compulsion,'" he wrote in an e-mail to me yesterday. "Wow!  What an amazing record. I was at a bar with Cecil McBee a few months ago. Had I known he was on this CD at the time, it would have been a good opportunity to ask him about the session."

"I think the key issue here is (the session's) historic significance. Recorded in October of '65, it preceeded Cecil Taylor's  'Unit Structures' by 10 months.  Since they were both recorded at the same studio, I wonder if Cecil was influenced by 'Compulsion.' The record Cecil released before 'Unit Structures' had straight time drums on it. Something happened to Cecil's music in the three years before 'Unit Structures.' Maybe Cecil heard 'Compulsion' and felt that the straight time drums were a flaw and decided to try free time drums on 'Unit Structures.'

"Of the two records, I had heard 'Unit Structures' first when it came out and realized that it was the first record ever with totally 'free' drums.  Andrew Cyrille plays the music not the time, which opened the door for Rashied Ali and Milford Graves.

"On 'Compulsion,' Joe Chambers bashes out bebop time throughout the record while everyone else is playing free.  He sounds like he is from the previous decade moved ahead in a time machine to this session. I realize now that's why I didn't like the record when I first heard it.

Thank you for turning me on to it again !!! I love the duet of John Gilmore and Andrew Hill without the rhythm section. That alone is worth having the CD."

But Jack is hooked. Just this morning he sent me another note with a more in-depth take on the music.

"This morning I even discovered a melodic phrase played by the horns that is very similiar to a horn melody on Cecil Taylor's 'Conquistador' album which also was recorded at Blue Note a year after 'Compulsion.' This further substantiates my feeling that there is some kind of behind the scenes connection between Cecil and Andrew and the three albums: 'Unit Structures,' 'Conquistador' and 'Compulsion.' The left-handed octaves which Cecil has been famous for also appear here in Andrew's left hand.  Maybe these two pianists were practicing together at the time.

"Regarding John Gilmore: I've heard him play eight times live with Sun Ra's band. When with Ra, I regularly heard John playing the sheets of sound and harmonics which he supposedly taught to John Coltrane. However, you can't find any evidence of that type of playing on Ra's records or the other 4 records (including Compulsion) on which Gilmore was a "sideman" with non-Sun Ra bands.  When he appears on record, he sounds like early Sonny Rollins.  When he appeared live, he sounded like Coltrane the year before he died.  However, It's a special occasion to hear John Gilmore in any configuration. 

"I still feel this morning that had the drum chair on 'Compulsion' been filled by Rashied Ali, Andrew Cyrille, Milford Graves, or Sunny Murray, instead of the conservative Joe Chambers, we would have had a record very similiar to Cecil Taylor's 'Unit Structures' or 'Conquistador' albums.  To hear Chambers at his best, I suggest 'Mode For Joe' by Joe Henderson which has him paired with a like minded bass player with a similiar view of time, Ron Carter.
"Richard Davis seems to understand the roll of the bassist in this (at the time) new music as a melodic collaborator rather than a harmonic supporter.  It seems as if Davis is playing live with the band here while Chambers is playing with a different band in his own head. While Freddie Hubbard seems to have a tired lip from possibly a gig the night before or too much rehearsing for the this session, he plays fabulous melodies separated by long silences.  I sat on the edge of my chair waiting for each new Hubbard phrase.
"I've decided I'm going to listen to nothing but this CD every day until I need a break with some other music.  It just gets better each time I listen to it. I still have the goose bumps!!"
Thanks again for turning me on to this CD after 40 years.  The music on the CD remained the same but my perception of it changed.

So, if there's a record you think might be worthy but that didn't grab you the first time 'round, give it another chance. You might be missing your own "Compulsion."

And to Andrew Hill, I know I can speak for Jack when I say, "we'll miss you."

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.