Trumpeter and sensei Marquis Hill is set to drop a brand new EP, aka bomb, on us December 1st. Meditation Tape EP is a seven-track succinct endeavor rooted in jazz and hip hop but most importantly branching out, as hinted by the title, into spirituality. Each track of the instrumental beat tape is followed by an excerpt from an interview with Sun Ra drummer Marvin “Bugalu” Smith. I caught up with Hill to discuss music, life, and spirituality in the context of this low-key albeit very important opus of his. If you happen to be in Chi-Town on Friday, make sure to catch Hill at The Promontory for a very special post-Thanksgiving live performance.
Sebastien Helary: You’re releasing a new EP on December 1st entitled Meditation Tape which even your manager called “a surprise to us all”. The album is a cross between a beat tape and a primer into the spiritual beliefs of Sun Ra Arkestra drummer Marvin “Bugalu” Smith. Can you tell us how all this came about? What is the purpose of the EP? Why now?
Marquis Hill: Over the last eight months – in one of those bizarre New York roommate stories we all hear about – somehow Bugalu and I have been housemates. Each morning, over breakfast, we speak about many things: politics, religion, Life, Love, Music, the universe, spirituality and meditation. I believe Marvin is full of wisdom and knowledge; I wanted to somehow reflect aspects of these compelling morning interactions. Our conversations sparked this project’s focal idea. I believe many of the ideas that Marvin energetically speaks are valid and I’m inspired to spread his message as much as possible, in combination with my music. There’s is no better time to do so than now!
SH: Each track of Meditation Tape ends with an excerpt from an interview with “Bugalu” in which he vocalizes some of the spiritual concepts he believes in, namely the titles of the songs of your EP which include “We Must Be One”, “The Power Of Truth” and “Eternal Spirit”. If you don’t mind me asking, what are your spiritual beliefs?
MH: I also believe in what we’d call the laws of the universe – one of those being that you get back what you put out; If you spread negativity and hate, the universe will respond to you in that manner. If you develop and spread real positivity and Love, that’s what you receive back. It’s as simple as that for me. Live righteously, spread love and watch how things start to manifest for the better. We all have the choice to do right or wrong. I believe all the power and Knowledge we need Is (sic) found within, It’s all about tapping into the God – or reflection of God – within you.
SH: You’re a proud Chicagoan. Can you tell us more about the music scene there?
MH: The scene in Chicago is thriving; it’s filled with fine musicians that support and look out for one another. One of the greatest things about the Chicago scene is the sense of community – family, even. In fact – I have been living in New York for three years now but I continue to visit Chicago frequently. As always, Chicago is home. Never forget where you come from.
SH: You seem to have very diverse musical influences. What are you listening to these days?
MH: What I listen to changes drastically depending upon when one might ask me. I’m a lover of music – all music. I find inspiration in checking out all kinds of music – different musical styles, performances, concepts, and productions. Lately I’ve been listening to The Whispers’ Love is Where to Find It, Ornette Coleman’s The complete Science Fiction sessions, Immortal Technique’s Revolutionary vol. 1 and Isaiah Sharkey’s Love.Live.Life.
SH: You won the 2014 Monk Institute Competition, the most prestigious and sought-after prize as presently discerned by jazz musicians. You say of the experience: “Winning that competition taught me to trust myself and keep working hard for that in which I believe. That experience taught me that I’m here for a purpose. So I need to keep pushing my work and music forward.” What do you believe this purpose is? How does this relate to ‘Meditation Tape’?
MH: I believe we each indeed have a purpose in life. Some people are leaders, some are teachers, some are helpers, some are healers – some are a surprising variety or combination of theses; but no matter how big or small a calling might seem to be, it is; we all have a purpose. I’m a musician and an artist with a very real sense of how my daily activity might be meaningful and meaningfully helpful. My purpose entails a using of whatever platform I presently have to create meaningful art that truly touches and lifts people, for the Better. Meditation Tape extends this sense and effort. If this project touches someone – even in some small way – the project’s purpose is active, and I’m grateful.
SH: As a nod to Pannonica, if you had three wishes, what would they be?
1. Better conditions for Black, melaninated people on this planet.
2. Actual peace, love, and harmony among all people on this planet.
3. The teaching of a true history of civilization on this planet
MARQUIS HILL | MEDITATION TAPE EP
01 December 2017
Marquis Hill, Trumpet
Brett Williams, Keyboard + Fender Rhodes
Kiefer Shackelford, Piano + Fender Rhodes, (6 & 7)
Junius Paul, Electric Bass
Makaya McCraven, Drums
Marvin “Bugalu” Smith, Interviewee
1. Good Morning
2. We Must Be One
3. Coming Out Of The Universe
4. The Power of Truth
5. Eternal Spirit
6. Get The Money
7. Towards The Light