Marquis Hill Blacktet at Green Mill | Concert preview
Local trumpeter takes a scenic tour of the jazz spectrum.
The party lines in jazz don’t mean a lot to Marquis Hill, a rising trumpeter who’s cemented his local scene presence by gigging nonstop and dropping two albums in as many years. The 25-year-old Chicago native has racked up an impressively varied list of credits in a short amount of time, lending his polished tone to traditionalist fare such as the Chicago Jazz Orchestra and more forward-looking endeavors; AACM fixture Ernest Dawkins tapped Hill for his New Horizons Ensemble’s solid 2011 album The Prairie Prophet. Yet as a leader Hill plays it safe. Despite his prolific pace, he’s still working out his own band’s guiding principles.
On the new Sounds of the City, Hill takes the album’s title as a mandate, presenting a scenic tour of the swing spectrum, packing in sprite hard-bop (“Like Lee,” written for trumpet hero Lee Morgan), smoothed-over grooves (“Kiss and Tell”) and tender vocal jazz (local singer Milton Suggs lends his pipes to a pair of tunes and poetic interludes). It’s a sophisticated step forward from last year’s New Gospel, even if it occasionally feels as if Hill’s trying on too many hats.
Hill’s quintet, or Blacktet, is at its strongest on elegant postbop like the soaring “Abracadabra,” where alto-saxist Christopher McBride bounds out of the gate over moody comping from pianist Josh Moshier. The combo’s dynamic range is captured best on the reflective, multi-faceted “To Be Free,” which features a limber guest turn from sax force and ex-Chicagoan Greg Ward. Ward won’t be on hand this weekend, which is just as well—Hill and his bandmates have plenty to say.