Marquis Hill | The Way We Play

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Marquis Hill - The Way We Play

Marquis Hill | The Way We Play
Concord Jazz
by Brent Faulkner

It’s arduous being innovative when so much innovation has materialized in the past. Particularly in jazz, with so many prodigious pioneers, finding a truly distinct lane and showcasing similar innovative spirit is intimidating. It’s not intimidating for Chicago trumpet standout Marquis Hill, who proves he’s a musical force to be reckoned with on latest album The Way We Play, his first for Concord Jazz. Just 29 – still a newbie in the game – Hill, alongside a talented cast (The Blacktet) delivers a gripping album of standards. While the idea of standards may sound unexciting particularly considering the aforementioned philosophy on innovative spirt, in the hands of Hill, Christopher McBride (alto sax), Justin Thomas (vibes), Josh Ramos (bass) and Makaya McCraven (drums), standards could never be a bore. Why? The Way We Play is all about reinvention – reinterpretation of the classics which makes them sound brand new.

Despite the fact that Hill never missteps throughout the course of The Way We Play, the talented Blacktet has moments that are loftier than the rest – the crème de la crème. Chief amongst the pack is the clever “The Way We Play / Minority.” The first full-length track, The Blacktet nails the angular Gigi Gryce classic (“Minority”), amplifying the angularity, notably during the solo sections. “The Way We Play/Minority,” hence, has a raucous brilliance. Hill’s solo is sensational following the head, given way to Justin Thomas’ equally riveting vibe solo. Another fantastic showing, torch classic “My Foolish Heart” may not be quite as adventurous as “The Way We Play / Minority,” but by no means is it treated traditionally. Innovative spirit is alive and well here, with a rhythmically driven arrangement backing the cool, calm, and collected vocalist, Christie Dashiell. Dashiell’s approach is perfect; she beautifully “paints the canvas.”

There’s even more. “Maiden Voyage” and “Straight No Chaser” both look beyond the original chart and performances. “Maiden Voyage” embraces a cooler, contemporary jazz/adult contemporary R&B vibe, a clear contrast to Herbie Hancock’s biting original from 1965 album of the same title. As far as “Straight No Chaser” is concerned, rather than establish the theme (head), after a quick melodic line from Hill/McBride, McBride kicks into a solo over the harmonic changes. Hill follows, again without the head, which doesn’t appear until the end. Beyond “Maiden Voyage” and “Straight No Chaser,” the Blacktet continue to “do work” without missing a beat, riff, or note. “Moon Rays” maintains key ideas and cues from Horace Silver’s original, but opts for a quicker tempo and a funkier, busier groove courtesy of McCraven. “Smile,” the epitome of old-school torch, doesn’t play true to Charlie Chaplin’s famed classic – it’s hip, but in asymmetrical meter. Even briefer moments such as the lush “Prelude,” Hill’s trumpet feature “Polka Dots and Moonbeams,” or “Juan’s Interlude” are intriguing.

Marquis Hill II

All in all, Marquis Hill and The Blacktet shine brightly on The Way We Play. Covers can easily grow blasé because too often people stay too close to the original. On the other hand, taking risks can also potentially ‘desecrate’ the original. In Marquis Hill’s case, he does a fantastic job of reinterpreting these standards and proves he is a jazz artist to watch; he’s clearly on the rise. The Way We Play is “A-Okay.”

Brent Faulkner
The Urban Music Scene

MORE Music Reviews on T.U.M.S.!:

Ricky Dillard | Choirmaster
Kelly Rowland | Coffee
Musicologist A. Scott Galloway Reflects on the Last Concert He Experienced Before the COVID-19 Crisi...
Boney James | Solid
Keyboardist Jason Miles Big-Ups Black Icons with Black Magic
Sophisticated Soul Singer Will Downing Salutes Baritone Vocal Classics On Romantique Part 2
Second Outing from Corea McBride & Blade Finds Trio as Virtuous and Versatile as Ever
Fantasia | Sketchbook
Stern and Lorber Find Equal Footing at Level Eleven
Raphael Saadiq | Jimmy Lee
Poncho Sanchez | Trane's Delight
Jéssica Pina | Essência
Kirk Franklin | LONG LIVE LOVE
Powerful Jazz Film "Bolden" Paints a Greater Socio-Political Story
Amazing Grace: Aretha Brings The Mountaintop Down to South Central L.A.
New Orleans Offers Up A Sassy Blue Angel
Chaka Khan | Hello Happiness
The Return of The Undisputed Truth is a Sonic Blast From The Past
Shanice: The 'S' is for Steamy on No Sleep new single "He Won't"
Keiko Matsui Sends Out a Reflection of Beauty Personified with Echo
Dominican-based Singer Anthony Jefferson Swings On a Star in Sophomore CD All I Am
London Jones | For You
John Legend | A Legendary Christmas
Will Downing | The Promise
Rhythm Tribe Introduces New Style, Acid Latin, With Return Single "You Can't Take Me Down"
At 85, Shorter Soars With Epic Musical/Literary Mashup Emanon
Bob James Drops First Trio CD As A Leader in Over a Decade
Gabrielle | Under My Skin
Ramsey Lewis, Tower of Power, Anthony Hamilton and More Help Playboy Jazz Festival Turn 40.
Piano Wonder Joey Alexander's Third Outing Proves He's On The Path to Mastery
MeShell Pretzels and Dives Beneath The Surface of `80s & `90s Soul Hits
En Vogue | Electric Café
Sade | "Flower of the Universe" (From Disney's 'A Wrinkle In Time')
Walter Beasley - The Best of Walter Beasley | The Affable Years, Volume 1
Sy Smith | Sometimes a Rose Will Grow in Concrete
Dr. Lonnie Smith | All in My Mind

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *