Marquis Hill

Talking to New York based jazz musician- trumpet player and band leader Marquis Hill, it almost feels like talking to a new American jazz legend in the making. These days he’s focusing most of his energy, next to touring, on the preparation of the release of his new record, Modern Flows Vol.2, released on his own label, Black Unlimited Music Group. ‘Besides that, we’re preparing for the release tour and live show. Of course, when I find time, I’m always writing new music for all the projects. But now I’m really looking forward to kicking off this tour.’ An insight into a young American jazz cat who is building bridges between traditional jazz, other contemporary musical styles and even other cultures.

Interview by Gilles Vandecaveye-Pinoy
Collages by Kamill Cosemans

Good afternoon Marquis, thank you for sharing some of your time. Let’s kick off; I’m always curious to ask fellow musicians what’s inspiring them the most at the moment.

Inspiration comes from everywhere

Well, inspiration comes from everywhere. I can be walking on the street and hear a sound that inspires me for writing a new melody. Or it could be the shape of a cloud. Or when I’m reading a book and read or hear a certain phrase that jumps out to me. Life in general, with its ups and downs inspires me, actually. Also going to concerts. That’s very important to me: checking out what fellow peers are exploring musically.

Looking at the clouds is quite meditative and inspiring indeed. Does meditation play a part in your life and does it affect your music in any way?

Definitely! They go hand in hand even. I start my day with 10 minutes of meditation, to clear out. Trying to stay in silence before entering the chaos. It applies to music too, I’m consciously thinking of this, the intention of the music and touching the audience, taking them in, music as a meditative tool to connect people.

I start my day with 10 minutes of meditation, to clear out. Trying to stay in silence before entering the chaos

Has moving to New York from Chicago affected you a lot as a human being and consequently as a player?

For sure, yeah. The energy of the city pushes you to be a better musician. Being able to have access to all this music, going to concerts, performances… The electric energy really changed my way of writing, performing and listening to music.

It seems to me that the last years, because of the political situation in the US, artists are strengthened to use their music as a tool to really voice out their opinion on society. Does it apply to you?

To me, the greatest art reflects what happens at the given time

Absolutely. It feels almost like an obligation to me. The best music, looking back at the masters like Max Roach, was political. We’re using their music as our own platform now. To me, the greatest art reflects what happens at the given time. And now, more than ever I have the feeling music is doing this.

You’re using a lot of musical styles like hip hop and neo-soul as an influence on your music. How do you see this tendency evolving in the future musically?

Well, in jazz it happens naturally; it’s a part of the natural aesthetics. A lot of artists are doing it, mixing their influences, it’s beautiful. You know, it’s a pretty unique and important time for jazz music and music in general. Some people are against the change but nothing ever stays the same. Jazz is music that changes with time. Some people want to conserve the music, but change and growth with respect for the tradition, how the masters taught us, that’s my approach towards it.  It’s very exciting times now for us, musicians.

Jazz is music that changes with time

I have to agree on that. You’re touring a lot in Europe the last years, do you notice a big difference between the way the audiences respond to your music in comparison to the US?

In many parts of Europe they’re a bit reserved maybe at first sight, but they love this music, what we call jazz. I would even say they love it even more than in the States, because the American music is less accessible out here maybe, I don’t know.  It just feels like they really grab on to the spirit of the music. It’s beautiful. You know, combining cultures and mixing the music, that’s where new ideas, new beautiful projects arise.

Does this apply to future collaborations with European musicians too?

I definitely plan to one day collaborate with European musicians. I just have to meet the right people, where I feel I can really create something with, something special. The more and more we mix up, the better for the music.

Wise words to conclude with. Let’s put them into practice!


Marquis Hill Blacktet
22 Nov – de Bijloke, Ghent
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Gilles is part of Peenoise, Bardo and Steiger. Steiger released his latest record Give Space on SDBAN Records last September. They are touring in Belgium and the Netherlands next year.