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Marquis Hill – The Way We Play

The Way We Play – Marquis Hill puts his own spin on some jazz classics

I first discovered the music of Marquis Hill back on 2013, around the time of the release of his album The Poet. At the time, I couldn’t find The Poet at any of my usual listening spots, so I listened to his album Sounds of the City . IK quickly became a fan! The sounds of the city emanated from Marquis’ home town of Chicago and the album was outstanding.

After the release of  The Poet, Marquis won  the 2014 THELONIOUS MONK INTERNATIONAL JAZZ COMPETITION. The winner of that competition also wins a recording contract with Concord Records. The Way We Play is the first album of the contract.The result may be a long and award-winning collaboration between the two! Jazz Times says this about Marquis’s playing

“His articulation, precise but unlabored, calls to mind the precedent of Clifford Brown, while his bravura phrasing suggests an equal immersion in Freddie Hubbard and Woody Shaw. All of which surely helped his cause at [the 2014] Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition, where he won first prize.

About Marquis from his website….

Marquis Hill…. Marquis Hill is already a well-known name on the Chicago Jazz Scene. After retrieving a Bachelor degree in Music Education/Jazz Studies, and studying privately at Northern Illinois University, he started performing heavily in Chicago. He has performed with artist such as: Dee Alexander, Tito Carrillo, Bobby Broom, Willie Pickens, Ron Perrillo, Victor Garcia, Benny Golson, Antonio Hart, Rodney Whitaker, Steve Turre , Ernest Dawkins, Maurice Brown, Corey Wilkes, Willerm Delisfort, Brian Lynch and many others In 2011 Marquis released his solo debut album, New Gospel, to critical acclaim. The project contained all original music performed by his group the Blacktet. In the spring of 2012, Marquis Hill received his Master’s degree in Jazz Pedagogy from DePaul University.

Here’s what some others have to say about Marquis…

 “His articulation, precise but unlabored, calls to mind the precedent of Clifford Brown, while his bravura phrasing suggests an equal immersion in Freddie Hubbard and Woody Shaw. All of which surely helped his cause at [the 2014] Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition, where he won first prize.” – JazzTimes

 ….Hill is a dynamic performer whose trumpet can be hushed and breathy one minute, and boldly clarion the next. Aesthetically, while he fits into the Freddie Hubbard mold with flashes of Wynton Marsalis and Clifford Brown, he’s also a deeply rooted trumpeter with an array of influences,- Matt Collar-  AllMusic

About The Way We Play

Marquis has changed things up a little on this album. Rather than use his own compositions, as he has done on  previous albums, The Way We Play is a reworking of mostly jazz classics.  As I look down the titles of the tracks, I recognize several songs including: “Polka, Dots and Moonbeams”, Herbie Hancock’s “Maiden Voyage” and Monk’s   ” Straight, No Chaser”. Other musicians whose songs are covered include: Donald Byrd, Horace Silver and Carmell Jones.  Marquis says this about the creation of the album…

. “I want to pay homage to some of my favorite jazz standards and American songbook classics,” Hill says. “These are some of the songs that I came up playing in various jam sessions; these songs really taught me how to play jazz.”

On The Way We Play, Marquis don’t just play these songs straight up. He tweaks them and makes them his own. Actually, he reworks them, so the songs reflect “the way they play”.

“I really want to make it very clear that this is the sound of my band, which is uniquely Chicago. I wanted to put everything on the table – this is the way that we play,” Hill explains.

The “We” is Marquis’s regular band the Blacktet, which  is composed of: alto saxophonist Christopher McBride, vibraphonist Justin Thomas, drummer Makaya McCraven, and bassist Joshua Ramos.

Bottom-line and Ratings:

Marquis Hill is becoming a not only a favorite of mine, but of jazz fans everywhere. He started his music career in Chicago, but for the last five years he has split time between Chicago and New York. The Way We Play has Marquis playing jazz classics, not their way, but his band’s way.

Bottom line their way is damn good! While I was listening to the album there were many times my ears perked up when I heard Marqui’s trumpet. I just thought Wow! That was good!! Overall, it gets a big CHECK IT OUT!

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Here’s Marquis and the Blacktet performing Herbie Hancock’s “Maiden Voyage”