Thursday, December 4, 2014

Marquis Hill, Modern Flows, EP Vol. 1

The problem sometimes with modern jazz that injects a contemporary funk element and other contemporary elements is that all too often the music is geared to please rather than express. Some of it is ultra-mundane, banal, tired. Not so with trumpeter-composer Marquis Hill and his recent album Modern Flows, EP Vol. 1 (Skiptone Music).

Marquis gets together a very capable and hip ensemble, a sextet of instrumentalists plus vocalist and two poet-rap personages. He builds charts that have very much something to them, modern Afro-influenced jazz that features intricate arrangements with excellent writing for the horns of Hill and altoist Christopher McBride and some very hard hitting rhythm-solo work from Justin Thomas on vibes, Josua Ramos on acoustic bass, Bryan Doherty on electric bass and Makaya McCraven on drums.

To that are added poetic recitations/raps/vocals from Meagan McNeal, Tumelo Khoza and Keith Winford. The lyrics-words portray the plight of the Afro-American today in no uncertain terms, African roots, chokeholds, Obama bashing, identity and respect, among other things.

It all works really well, thanks in part to the very fluent musicianship and the compositional brilliance. You listen, you listen again, and there is no weary recognition that here we have a bunch of cliches strung together for radio play. It is the opposite. It gets better and the substance of the music is THERE.

No kidding. This is excellent. It hearkens back to old Blue Note horn voicings, hip tunes and the best of funk-jazz from the golden age of Norman Connors, Herbie, Azar Lawrence and the others. It's in its own court, though, too.

Get this one if you want something that convinces yet gets funky in a really advanced but rooty way!

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