One of the problems with Chicago’s jazz scene is that so many great players reside in or come out of Chicago. It has been this way for decades. Of course, this isn’t a problem for all of us who live in Chicago, but it often makes us take our local heroes for granted.
When I saw the schedule for this year’s “Jazz at Logan,” I was thrilled that I would have opportunity to see the Cookers, Christian McBride, and Chris Potter. When I saw Marquis Hill’s name listed as one of headliners , I was hardly disappointed, but I’d seen him many times before, so I wasn’t as thrilled about his performance.
Tonight, Hill proved that we should all be thrilled whenever he takes the stage. He has always been a great player, but his compositional abilities are what really stood out tonight. As far as I can tell, all the numbers were penned by Hill. They appear on his excellent new recording, Modern Flows Vol. 2. It is a bit hard to describe the sound. Compressed range, muted, contemplative, and consistent come to mind. The set could have easily been incendiary with Hill on trumpet, Josh Johnson on alto sax, Junius Paul on bass, Jonathan Pinson on drums, and the great Joel Ross on vibes and marimba. Instead, the set was set at a low boil that got hotter and hotter. The audience was the proverbial frog in the pot. The music snuck up on you. I suspect Gil Evans could have had a lot of fun with orchestrating Hill’s compositions.
Intermixed with the music was some hiphop and rap, with M’Reld Green and Braxton Cook doing the honors. They added some edge to the music, with their social conscious commentary on Chicago. I was not always a fan of jazz-rock fusion. It often seemed forced, with the two genres never quite melding. Today, much of what came out of the early Seventies sounds dated. That could be the case with a melding of hip hop with jazz, but Hill and company managed to pull off a melded sound that was quite natural.
I particularly enjoyed the interaction between Pinson and Ross. They certainly enjoyed each other’s company on a couple of numbers, where they engaged in brief duets. Each had his eyes locked on other, with big smiles on their faces. Unfortunately, there are no photographs of those interactions because they were on opposite sides of the stages.
Overall, both Hill and Amy Iwano, who programs the Jazz at Logan series, had great nights.
[Click on an Image to Enlarge It]
Josh Johnson Between the Notes I
Josh Johnson Between the Notes II
Marquis Hill Leading the Way
Jonathan Pinson on Drums
Braxton Cook Adding Vocals to the Mix
Junius Paul Alone
M’Reld Green Sees Gentrification All Over the Nation
Joel Ross on Marimba
The Best Dressed Man in Jazz
Marquis and Joel
Double Bass in Technicolor Garb
Caught Between the Mikes
M’Reld Green and Joel Ross
Listen to Me
Shining Down on Josh
Taking a Quick Break
The Entire Ensemble Minus Jonathan Pinson
Electric and Red
Marquis Sans Trumpet