About a year ago, trumpeter Marquis Hill, now 28, traveled to Los Angeles, played five tunes for a panel of judges, and won the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition. You can think of it as a sort of Heisman Trophy for young jazz artists, meaning that a lot more people discovered his talent in a hurry.
Hill’s profile may have risen suddenly, but talent like that doesn’t spontaneously emerge from nowhere. It takes a village of mentors, peers, opportunities and other educational infrastructure to enable a musician to grow. That’s especially true with jazz, an inherently social music historically conveyed through the oral tradition. Besides, in his hometown of Chicago, folks had already known about Hill for some time: That’s the “village” that raised him, after all.
Marquis Hill now splits his time between the Windy City and New York City, but still maintains a snappy working band full of catchy melodic ideas — a five-piece outfit he calls the Marquis Hill Blacktet. On one of his trips back home this summer, we asked him to show us “his” Chicago, culminating in a Blacktet performance downtown at one of the city’s premier clubs: the Jazz Showcase.
Jazz Night In America travels to one of the great jazz cities to meet some of the people and places which transformed a young trumpeter from the South Side of Chicago into Marquis Hill.