Marquis Hill@The Blue Whale 06.17.17

Father’s Day weekend was a time for trumpet fans to rejoice, as a pair of the best swung into town, allowing audiences to compare and contrast two completely different approaches to the horn. As opposed to Akinmusire’s emphasis on nuance and extrapolation, Marquis Hill brings a vintage sound and song selection while adding modern themes and grooves in order to appeal to Millennial ears.

With a front line including Walter Smith III and a rhythm section of Jeremiah Hunt/b and Jonathan Pinson/dr anchor legged by “The Deacon” Eric Reed/p, Hill opened “Law and Order” from his debut album, mixing his gorgeous brass with Smith’s earth toned tenor while the drums snapped everyone to attention. Reed was given a solo aria that flowed like a night gown just before the rest of the band jumped back in to gallop the melody to the finish line. Hill’s muted horn was suave and sweet as Hunt loped through Pinson’s R&B groove and Smith weaved through “Autumn” while Reed tapped into his gospel roots and through in quotes from vintage Ahmad Jamal that brought hoots of approval from both the audience and band members.

The rest of the evening mostly focused on material from his latest album, with “Moon Rays” being highlighted by the leader’s sweetly melodic dance” and the quicksilver “Minority” having Hill riding the tidal wave created by the rhythm team with a tone so strong and fat that it felt like a long boarder in Oahu and Smith worked his tenor like a weightlifter at Muscle Beach through Reed’s cavalcade of ivory and Pinson’s popping of the clutch into overdrive.

Hill and company cooled the mood down a bit with a gorgeously elegiac read of “Maiden Voyage,” with the two horns floating like a morning mist while  Pinson and Hunt gently coaxed the delicate pulse along.

Hill delivered a confident bel canto intro to the closing “When We Were Kings” that, once the rhythm section clicked in, turned into a rhythmic cavalcade that had the horn mix melodic with percussive permutations. Pinson lead the trio through an interlude that dug so deep that Peter Clemenza could have buried a body in it, setting up an avalanche that the horns closed out with a photo finish.

One of the key tests my dad taught me about any artists was “could you listen to him straight for 6 hours straight without going crazy.” With a side by side comparison of two of today’s most important horns, Hill wins the 6 hour test with a torrid yet accessible set on this balmy weekend celebrating Fathers.

Upcoming events at The Blue Whale include Julian Coryell 06/20-21, Walter Smith III 06/23-24, Vardan Ovspepian 06/28 and David Binney 06/30

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