Theo Hill

Reality Check

The third album from Theo Hill issued through Marc Free’s Posi-Tone imprint is something of a departure for the pianist.

Though Hill returns with a rhythm section drawn from his earlier releases—bassist Rashaan Carter and drummer Mark Whitfield Jr.—Reality Check expands the bandleader’s palette by adding in vibes, provided by the seemingly omnipresent Joel Ross.

The quartet recording (Hill’s previous Posi-Tone outings were trio affairs) also finds the composer more frequently engaging an electric context for his work. Granted, tracks like “Retrograde,” off 2018’s Interstellar Adventures, find the pianist’s band treading territory first covered by ’70s groove-oriented players. But “Swell,” “Superwoman” and “Song Of The Wind,” all from this latest effort, see Hill combining his penchant for classic straightahead material with some funkier offerings.

That Ross is onboard, adding another voice and well of expression, only suits the bandleader’s writing—roomy enough for two melodic instruments and taut enough for moments of focused investigation. On “Guardians Of Light,” the pianist’s insistent left hand grants his right generous backing to take flight, as Carter exerts an electrified tone. It’s a contemplative mode, one that shifts across Reality Check’s 10 tracks, moving from charged moments of musicality to calmness and easy elegance.