Marquis Hill Blacktet to appear at the jazz center

BRATTLEBORO — Trumpeter Marquis Hill will appear at the Vermont Jazz Center on Feb. 17, at 8 p.m. with his group, the Blacktet, which also features Joel Ross on vibraphone, James Francies on piano, Harish Raghavan on acoustic bass and Jonathan Pinson on the drums.

Hill emerged into the jazz limelight in 2014 after earning the prestigious award of top prize at the International Thelonious Monk Competition. Leading up to this, his success was gradual and patiently earned — the result of a clear vision and a disciplined approach nurtured by mentors, hard work and natural talent. After receiving a Masters Degree in Jazz Pedagogy, Hill won first place in both the 2012 International Trumpet Guild's Jazz Improvisation Competition and the 2013 Carmine Caruso International Jazz Trumpet Solo Competition. One of his mentors, the masterful pianist Willie Pickens (R.I.P.) said in an interview that, when Marquis Hill would come over to his house to study, "he was always focused every moment that we were together he was trying to get something out of me." Hill's earnest motivation to learn and grow are reflected in his successes: his prolific yet careful output, the proficiency he demonstrates on his instrument, his brilliant musical arrangements and his abilities as a bandleader to maintain an identifiable, tightly knit sound even when playing in varied styles.

Hill's music is influenced by his Chicago upbringing; he is keenly aware of its importance in the history of jazz and his place as one of a host of legendary trumpeters. During the great migration, Chicago was considered a city of opportunity for African-Americans fleeing the oppression of the South, its development as a haven of black culture was critical during the 1920s and its proud heritage continues to this day. In an interview with Neon Jazz, Hill acknowledges his felt kinship and respect for Louis Armstrong who, he said, "walked these streets and claimed them to be one of the places where jazz was created." Hill never misses an opportunity to laud his Chicago influences — including Diane Ellis, his hip fifth grade band director who gave him a recording by Lee Morgan that changed his life. Hill has also expressed gratitude to a coterie of legendary Chicago-based mentors who guided him as a youth. Among others, these include Bobby Broom, Tito Carrillo, Maggie Brown, Fred Anderson, Von Freeman, Professor Ronald Cart, the AACM and Ernest Dawkins.

Hill is an open-minded musician who thinks of the big picture. He values spoken word and vocals and intersperses them amongst his instrumental compositions. Each of his albums is conceptually complete. Hill's body of work illustrates his position as a creative, productive millennial unafraid to utilize all the resources of his generation. Although his performance at the Jazz Center will be acoustic, he is sometimes joined by electronic instruments and effects (his 2014 EP, "Modern Flows" is primarily a hip hop album). Hill's compositions are carefully constructed gems that combine modern rhythmical grooves with accessible and respectful nods to those who came before him. Considering his vast array of influences, Hill's sound is surprisingly understated. Dynamics are essential to his concept, especially quieter passages that draw the listener inside the music. In an interview where he was asked about how he developed his personal trumpet sound, Hill described a "sub-tone" technique he discovered while listening to recordings of the legendary saxophonist Lester Young; this technique gives him a sound that is quiet, full and round, and that doesn't sacrifice direction or power when they are needed.

The Blacktet includes vibraphonist Joel Ross. The Chicago native has performed with jazz legends Herbie Hancock, Louis Hayes, Christian McBride, and Stefon Harris as well as contemporaries like Ambrose Akinmusire, Gerald Clayton, Jon Batiste and many more. Twice selected as a Thelonious Monk Institute National All-Star and a 2013 YoungArts Jazz Finalist, Ross' debut album "Good Vibes," will be released this year.

James Francies will be on piano. He is the youngest recipient of the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) President's Youth Award, and is a two-time DownBeat Award winner. Francies has appeared on the Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon with the Roots. He is currently recording a soundtrack for a documentary on Nina Simone.

Growing up just north of Chicago, bassist Harish Raghavan began his musical training on both western and Indian percussion, eventually taking up the double bass in his late teens. He enrolled in USC where he studied with John Clayton and Robert Hurst. In 2007, Raghavan moved to New York and began making contributions to bands led by Ambrose Akinmusire, Vijay Iyer, Taylor Eigsti, Eric Harland, Mark Turner, Aaron Parks, Greg Osby, Billy Childs, Benny Green, Geoffry Keezer, Terrell Stafford, Mike Moreno, Rodney Green, Logan Richardson, Fabian Almazan, Justin Brown, Dayna Stephens, Ben Wendell, Julian Lage, Gerald Clayton, Marcus Gilmore, Walter Smith III and others.

The drummer of the group is Jonathan Pinson. He has performed or toured with Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Dave Liebman, John Patitucci, Ambrose Akinmusire, Greg Osby John Clayton, Ed Simon, Eric Reed, Kamasi Washington, Gilad Hekselman and Danilo Perez. He has performed at the VJC with Miro Sprague and the musical collective Holophonor, comprised of seven musicians who attended the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance at the University of California Los Angeles.

It is likely that this concert will sell out in advance, so reserve your tickets now. The primary sponsor of this concert is Al Wakefield, co-founder of Wakefield Talabisco International, an international executive search firm specializing in the recruitment of senior management on a global basis. His generous contribution has made this concert possible. The VJC is also thankful for the ongoing support from the Hampton Inn of Brattleboro. VJC publicity is underwritten by the Brattleboro Reformer, WVPR, WVEW, WFCR and Olga Peters of WKVT's Green Mountain Mornings.


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