Discussions: Marquis Hill

By the time Chicago-born trumpeter Marquis Hill earned top billing at the 2014 Thelonious Monk Institute International Jazz Competition, he was already known internationally as an important young jazz player. With each new project, it becomes increasingly clear that the 33-year-old has a great deal to offer both jazz purists and those with a broader interest in African American music. His latest, the handsomely crafted Soul Sign, dropped last month.

Is astrology a big part of your life?

I’ve been interested in astrology for some time; I can remember being intrigued as early as in my high school years. But my yearning for more knowledge on and around the subject has deepened in my adult life. It is a significant part of my everyday life.

I believe astrology at its core is finally about the great puzzle on which old sages stewed: Know Thyself! And all in moderation. It’s largely about sound knowledge of self. 

When you study astrology, you’re studying energies within and without. You’re studying yourself and the energies of the world at the same time. Voices and references you hear on this project are two modern day astrologers that I follow: Mecca Woods and Boro the Lucky Libra.

I don’t believe in astrology, but I’m struck by your comment about self-awareness. What am I missing?

At the moment of birth for all of us, the stars and planets were fixed in a certain position in the sky, the world had a specific energy the day we were born. Your energy differs from my energy but we all possess these energies (zodiac signs). Astrology teaches about these energies and how they apply to our life.

I also took a sense of nostalgia away from it (rightly or wrongly). It’s not entirely that, but there seems to be a reference to 1970s soul/jazz and the interest in astrology during that period. Fair?

You’re absolutely correct! One of my biggest inspirations for creating this project was Cannonball Adderley’s 1974’s record entitled Sex, Love, and the Zodiac. He explores many of these same concepts.

Among other things, Soul Sign is my contemporary spin. 

Why do you think music from the ’70s continues to resonate? Even some of the music I looked down on at the time has a kind of purity to it that I’ve only recently come to appreciate.

The ’70s produced some of my all time favorite black American music – from Herbie Hancock and the HeadHunters to Marvin Gaye – and so much in between. Much music of the ’70s was raw, organic and filled with soul – utter intention. You can feel the passion and truth in that music.

It was a pretty special time in history, on many levels. This was the first time in music where musicians experimented fusing acoustics and electronics; what often resulted was a peculiarly direct reflection of what was going on in the broader world at the time.

Discussions is a series of conversations with contemporary music figures. Please submit proposals to modernslove@gmail.com.

Kevin Press

The Moderns, vols. 1-3 – available exclusively from Amazon

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