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Marquis Hill | Modern Flows Vol. 2 | Album Review

Black Unlimited Music Group
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Hip-hop/jazz-inspired trumpet player Marquis Hill released his follow-up to his 2014 album with the brand new Modern Flows Vol. 2. Including features from rapper/beat poets and a full quintet, Hill’s latest provides a full hour of thought-provoking modern jazz tunes. 

The featured quintet consists of drums, bass, vibraphone, alto sax, and, of course, Hill on trumpet. This instrumentation gives the entire record a brooding, spacious quality, conjuring images of neon lights and seedy bars. The track “As I Am” contains a variety of sections including a dissonant bridge that highlights this.

However, much of Modern Flows Vol. 2 grows somewhat faceless, as many tracks fail to stand out on their own. “The Watcher” and “Twin Flame” come across as typical combo-style modern jazz recordings that are nothing new in terms of style or composition. There are some moments, the bass solo on “Law of Vibrations” or the vocal duet from Braxton Cook and Rachel Robinson on “Kiss and Tell,” that are tastier and more memorable but otherwise are unable to resurrect the album.

Multiple tracks, like the intro and “It Takes a Village,” deal with themes of social empowerment and African-American culture, but the record neglects to elaborate on them in favor of its predictable modern-standard style tunes. It’s tough to take these matters to heart when the instrumentals feel as tired as the listener surely is halfway through the record. 

The rap features do break up these lukewarm instrumentals. On “Prayer of the People,” M’reld Green spits verses discussing gentrification and the importance of African-American history to an airy, urgent hip-hop groove. “Smoke Break” captures a similar musical funkiness while also incorporating aspects of Marquis Hill’s classic jazz upbringing. 

Overall, Modern Flows Vol. 2 is still an enjoyable jazz record that certainly features high technical prowess, but it unfortunately capsizes in the end.

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