Fans of trumpeter Marquis Hill shouldn’t be surprised that his latest album is more neo-soul than bop. Hill has been teasing this direction for years, starting with the hip-hop cadences he folded into 2014’s Modern Flows Vol. 1. But if you listen to his arrangements of standards like Herbie Hancock’s “Maiden Voyage” as well as originals from his last two albums (see parts of 2018’s Modern Flows Vol. 2), you’ll hear him leaning into the lyricism and lush production of contemporary soul and R&B. Love Tape fully embraces this sound.
To the point, “Won’t You Celebrate with Me,” the third of the record’s nine tracks, sounds almost more like Hill’s instrumental arrangement of an R&B track than his own “jazz” composition. His trumpet trades phrases with keyboardist Michael King in a call and response that then develops into a new, oscillating melody, much like a singer turning from verse to chorus. The sound of the trumpet here is soft and billowing, the sonic portrait of a perfectly puffy white cloud. An echo effect that turns one horn into a small choir of trumpets allows the listener to sink ever deeper into the tranquil, unhurried mood.
Hill regularly pulls back the music to let the other stars of the album—the spoken (and recorded) thoughts of distinguished black women like Abbey Lincoln and Eartha Kitt, as well as the hauntingly beautiful vocals from singer Christie Dashiell—take prominence. He says that the music’s direction was suggested by the spoken-word recordings, which focus on philosophical concepts of love, but drawing a through line from the words to his music is a difficult, muddled task. Still, the sounds they inspired suit Hill well.
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