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Marquis Hill: Modern Flows Vol. 2 (Black Unlimited Music Group)

Review of the trumpeter's followup to his 2014 EP Modern Flows Vol. 1

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Cover of Marquis Hill album Modern Flows Vol. 2
Cover of Marquis Hill album Modern Flows Vol. 2

There are some albums you really have to strap in for, lest you get whiplash for all of the various genre components that come whizzing by you. This is one of them. “My lyrics and conversation will make your brain smile,” boasts emcee Brandon Alexander Williams on this set’s intro, and the man has a point there. Chicago trumpeter Marquis Hill has surrounded himself with (mostly) other Chicagoans in a kind of detonation of jazz as we think of it, and a reassembly of a new jazz in spirit, if not form.

Stylistic freedom is a thematic thrust throughout. Junius Paul’s walking electric bass lines lead into “The Watcher,” with Jonathan Pinson’s drum rolls pulling us back, as if in a percussive underscoring of the idea that we need to stop, watch, process, learn. Vibraphonist Joel Ross is a beast, but a subtle one, even as his cascading notes cue Hill and Pinson to enter into a dialogue reminiscent of mute-free Miles and Tony Williams on the cusp of electricity half a century ago.

“Smoke Break” starts with a lighter’s flick, with cooing vocals under a stretched blues groove, the album’s break-time moment. Sound abets sense throughout, a kind of antiphonal byplay. Williams returns on “It Takes a Village,” a popping old school hip-hop thumper, with a big, arching backbeat, Hill and altoist Josh Johnson blowing tight, circular patterns in double-time over the loping groove underneath. You’re pulled this way, you’re pulled that way, and frisson is let loose from seams you didn’t know were there.

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Originally Published