The winner of the 2014 Thelonious Monk Institute's International Jazz Competition, Chicago's Marquis Hill is a highly gifted trumpeter/composer with a sophisticated, genre-bending take on post-bop jazz. Self-released just prior to his Monk Institute success, Hill's fourth studio album, 2014's Modern Flows EP, Vol. 1, is an adventurous, hip-hop informed effort that finds Hill skillfully balancing his love of lush, soulful, acoustic and electric jazz, contemporary R&B, and alternative rap. Joining Hill here is his Blacktet ensemble, featuring alto saxophonist Christopher McBride, vibraphonist Justin Thomas, acoustic bassist Joshua Ramos, electric bassist Bryan Doherty, drummer Makaya McCraven, and rapper Keith Winford, spoken word artist Tumelo Khoza, and vocalist Meagan McNeal. Hill has a supple trumpet tone and lithe improvisational ability; skills that finds him bounding through these groove-oriented, harmonically intriguing charts with athletic ease. While impressive, Hill's virtuosity never unduly overshadows the overall group vibe of Modern Flows, which is at its core a Blacktet recording. To these ends, cuts like the epic opening title track, and the grounded, guazy hip-hop jazz of "King Legend" (showcasing Winford's swaggering, socially minded, literate flow), reveal Hill's adept leadership vision as he seamlessly bridges the stylistic gap between aggressive hip-hop and cerebral jazz. Similarly, whether it's the way the languid, vibraphone-steeped romanticism of "The Essence" brings to mind a quiet storm version of Juan Tizol's "Caravan," or the way Hill and McBride chase each other, intermittently locking horn lines on the frenetic, late-'60s hard bop-influenced "Black Harvest," Modern Flows thrives on the trumpeter's stylistic and decade-defying finesse. Ultimately, with Modern Flows EP, Vol. 1, Hill has crafted an ambitious album steeped in jazz traditions of the past that, as the title implies, is delivered with an energy and aesthetic firmly expressed in the present tense.
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AllMusic Review by Matt Collar