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ROBERT SIEGEL, host: Andrew Hill has been called a legend and a mystery. Many Jazz lovers know the pianist and composer as a master. He died today at the age of 75, several years after he'd been diagnosed with lung cancer. NPR's Lynn Neary has this remembrance.

NEARY: Andrew Hill studied with one of the great 20th-Century classical composers, Paul Hindemith. While still a teenager, he played with jazz greats including Charlie Parker and Miles Davis. He was an accompanist for singer Dinah Washington.

Blue Note Records Founder, Alfred Lion, who produced Hill's first recordings in the 1960s, called him: my last great protege.

(Soundbite of music)

NEARY: And thru it all, says record producer Michael Cuscuna, Andrew Hill remain an enigma.

MICHAEL CUSCUNA (Record Producer): Enigmatic is the perfect word for Andrew. Like a lot of bright people, when you had a conversation with them, you had to stay on your feet because he would often be thinking so fast that he might skip three paragraphs in talking to you. You'd have to really hang on for dear life to follow the concepts that he's talking about. It's kind of like listening to James Joyce being read aloud.

NEARY: Hill's music was unique says Cuscuna.

MR. CUSCUNA: He had a different way of looking at things. A completely different view point - not unlike Thelonious Monk or Herbie Nichols - people that just develop their own vocabulary. And like Herbie Nichols or the Thelonious Monk, there was no mistaking four bars of Andrew Hill piano, or a Andrew Hill composition. There was no mistaking them.

(Soundbite of music)

NEARY: Hill recorded a number of groundbreaking albums for Blue Note between 1963 and 1970. And though his work was always critically acclaimed and admired by musician, he never achieved the popularity that many though he deserved. In an interview with NPR in 2000, Hill said that never bothered him.

ANDREW HILL (Jazz Pianist): Public acceptance is such a fickle thing because in one period, people like you, one period, they don't like you. But the dividends from what I did in the '60s have really helped me. IN the 60s I said I don't want to live to be young man. And my only experience would be playing and living in New York. So I really don't feel anything about that because in my life I said, well, I have been blessed.

(Soundbite of music)

NEARY: For a ling time, Hill dropped from view entirely. He taught at Portland State University, gave master classes at NYU and continued to compose and perform. Then, starting in 1989, he began recording again. Cuscuna says Hill's absence from the music scene increased people's curiosity about him.

MR. CUSCUNA: When he finally resurfaced, suddenly there was a lot of interest in his music. And I think that was because he had been given this air of mystery. It's having disappeared and then, what ever happened to Andrew Hill? And I think that helped his recognition in the last 15 years of his life.

NEARY: In the end, says Cuscuna, Andrew Hill was playing the packed houses and got both the critical and audience recognition he so justly deserved. Lynn Neary, NPR News, Washington.

SIEGEL: You can hear more music by Andrew Hill - including a concert performance in Lincoln Center at npr.org.

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