Randy Napoleon – The Door is Open: The Music of Gregg Hill

OA2 records – Street date February 19th 2024
Randy Napoleon - The Door is Open: The Music of Gregg Hill

Guitarist Randy Napoleon, originally from Michigan, who migrated to New York in 1999, is not the only artist interested in Gregg Hill’s compositions. It has become increasingly common in recent years for an album to pay tribute to this composer, with the important point to note being the unique perspective that each musician brings to Gregg Hill’s works. Randy has recorded with Freddy Cole, whose releases have been nominated for Grammy Awards, such as “Freddy Cole Sings Mr. B” and “My Mood Is You.” He has also played on the live album “Live at MCG” by the Clayton Hamilton Orchestra. Napoleon is featured on Bublé’s Grammy-nominated CD/DVD, “Caught in the Act.”
These impressive references left me uncertain about what kind of album to expect. Indeed, Randy Napoleon’s chosen approach to Gregg Hill’s music is a form of contemplative poetry, seeking the essence within each composition’s core. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, considering that guitarist George Benson has described Napoleon as “sensational.” Mark Stryker, a critic for the Detroit Free Press, states that Napoleon “plays with a sweet, purring tone that makes you lean in to hear his range of colors and articulations.” Mike Joyce, a critic for the Washington Post, praises his “exceptionally agile fingerstyle technique.” Music critic Michael G. Nastos, comparing him to Wes Montgomery, claims that Napoleon “unfolds a perfect balance between swing, soul, and elements of single-note or chordal lines, showcasing an emerging voice dedicated to universally accessible jazz tradition and values.”
Therefore, we must seek to intellectually understand Randy Napoleon’s approach. Evidently, he attempts to make us emotionally experience the era in which these works were written. Through his arrangements, he provides the keys to comprehending these compositions. It is subtle and fascinating, enhanced here and there by the beautiful voice of Aubrey Johnson. This allows us to phonetically read Gregg Hill’s work – a highly avant-garde universe, with extremely complex compositions made accessible by the quality of the arrangements. Thus, there is no need to know the entire history of jazz to appreciate this album; one simply needs to open their ears and heart, and pleasure will follow. Furthermore, the fantastic musicians who make up the group are equally exceptional, namely: Aubrey Johnson (vocals), Rick Roe (piano), Quincy Davis (drums), Rodney Whitaker (bass), Luca Lafave (bass on tracks 1, 4, 5, 7), Anthony Stanco (trumpet), Walter Blanding (saxophone), and Andrew Kim (trombone).
Of course, this album may not appeal to everyone. It is highly specific and somewhat intellectually oriented. Nonetheless, for us, jazz is not a fixed form; it is the artistic expression of people who have something to say. It can be closely linked to civil rights issues or the work of a bored white bourgeoisie who becomes passionate about one theme or another, clinging to world music or so-called classical music. It can also be explosive. There is something for every taste and color, like countless stars in the sky. And if your mind is curious, constantly seeking reflection, this album will quickly become indispensable to you.

Thierry De Clemensat
USA correspondent – Paris-Move and ABS magazine
Editor in chief Bayou Blue Radio, Bayou Blue News

PARIS-MOVE, February 5th 2024


To buy this album


Track Listing:
1 The Lost Tune 7:34
2 The Door is Open 6:28
3 Escape to Cat Island 5:01
4 Motel Blues 5:52
5 Spa-Teneity 6:20
6 April Song 7:35
7 The Last Pop Tune 4:45
8 Skyline 5:34
9 Triple Play 4:10

All music composed by Gregg Hill
Arranged by Randy Napoleon
(1) Lyrics by Randy Napoleon & Aubrey Johnson
(4, 8) Lyrics by Randy Napoleon