Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Marquis Hill Modern Flows EP Vol. 1

Chicago trumpeter Marquis Hill has established himself as a musician, composer, arranger and educator prior to winning the 2014 Thelonious Monk International Competition which for that year was focused on the trumpet. A member of the faculty at the University of Illinois at Chicago and a member of the Chicago Jazz Orchestra, winning the Monk competition undoubtedly will lead to greater recognition of his talent, beyond Chicago. Prior to winning the competition, Skiptone Music issued his fourth album, "Modern Flows EP Vol. 1." Listening to this recording, one cannot help but be impressed by all of the facets of his music which brings together a modern jazz approach that incorporates rap and hip-hop grooves in an natural, organic fashion.

On this recording, he is joined by a terrific group including alto saxophonist Christopher McBride; vibraphonist Justin Thomas; acoustic bassist Joshua Ramos; electric bassist Bryan Doherty; and drummer Makaya McCraven. Also present are vocalist Meagan McNeal, and the raps and spoken words from Tumelo Khosa and Keith Winford. One is impressed not simply from the musicianship (listen to Hill and McBride trade lines on "Black Harvest", and which also provides Mr. Thomas with a chance to stretch out), but the scoring and arrangements of the compositions. The raps carry forward their positive message directed towards members of the African diaspora, while the musicians provide backing that frames these forceful, principled statements.

The afore-mentioned "Black Harvest," is a standout track mixing lyricism with a smoldering intensity, while the rhythm section invest the performance with African-inspired groove, On "White Shadow," Hill displays warmth and imagination in a stunning solo. "The Essence" is a lovely instrumental while "I Remember Summer" features Ms. McNeal's lovely vocal as Thomas accompanies her and solos very lyrically, followed by McBride's blues-inflected alto sax. "When We Were Kings" suggests some of Woody Shaw's compositions with Hill soaring at times during his solo. Thomas, Hill and McBride each provide lyrical heat on the briskly paced "Flow," which also has a crisp drum solo from McCraven.

This writer had previously heard and was impressed by Hill's marvelous album "The Poet." "Modern Flows EP Vol. 1" is equally impressive with the performances contained. One looks forward to more from this exceptional musician and composer. Here is a sample of Marquis Hill live.

I received my review copy from a publicist. This review appeared in the September-October Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 363) that can be downloaded at For those in the Washington DC area, the Marquis Hill Blacktet on January 22, 2016 in the KC Jazz Club ( Here he is performing "Black Harvest."

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