DownBeat March 2021

Joining the trumpeter are two Bronx astrolo- gers, Mecca Woods and Boro the Lucky Libra. They offer both poetic and prosaic knowledge to support and enliven the meaning of every sign of the Zodiac, which gives each track here its title. Those wisdom-filled lyrics often take the form instructions, as on “Aquarius | I Change | Uranus &Saturn,” whenMeccaWoods reminds listeners that, “Aquarius, as independent as you are, there are times where you’d much rather be a part of a community than be alone, to the point of shrink- ing yourself to belong. But never give up who you are, Aquarius. What makes you lovable are the very things that set you apart from the crowd.” Though the spoken-word pieces are central to Soul Sign , the album never feels too preachy or heavy-handed. Most importantly, the music remains inviting. Hill offers both trap beats and ballads, a kind of dissonance that perfectly cap- tures the various aspects of the Zodiac. The crisp production from ChallyMikes, MitchyTime and Gengis Don breathes across the album, andHill’s horn lights our souls afire.  —Joshua Myers Soul Sign: Aries | I Am|Mars; Taurus | I Have | Venus; Gemini | I Think |Mercury; Cancer | I Feel |Moon; Leo | I See | Sun; Virgo | I Analyze |Mercury; Libra | I Balance | Venus; Scorpio | I Desire |Mars; Sagittarius | I Seek | Jupiter; Capricorn | I Utilize | Saturn; Aquarius | I Change | Uranus&Saturn; Pisces | I Dream| Jupiter &Neptune. (38:37) Personnel: MarquisHill, trumpet; Junius Paul, Evan Lawrence, bass; GengisDon, ChallyMikes,MitchyTime, production;Mecca

Natsuki Tamura/Satoko Fujii/Ramon Lopez Mantle NOT TWO 1003 HHH 1/2 A prolific composer, improviser and bandleader, pianist Satoko Fujii has spent the past three decades blurring the lines of free-jazz, contem- porary classical, Japanese folk and experimen- tal music. The expanses of her artistic vision and boundlessmusic are unparalleled. But on Mantle , she finds worthy partners in trumpeter Natsuki Tamura and drummer Ramon Lopez. As a trio, they work across the spectrum of avant-garde jazz, moving adeptly from modern improvisa- tion to bebop to rock and back. Fujii and Tamura, who have been collabora- torsoncountlessprojects since theearly ’90s, have a fluid, almost instinctual discourse, her roman- tic melodic lines balancing out his blustery horn on “Nine Steps To The Ground.” Tamura brings in more familiar bebop phrases on “Metaphors,” but gradually moves into extended technique for both “Encounter” and “Straw Coat.” Lopez anchors the frenzied discourse with understat- ed percussion, while matching Fujii’s languor- ous notes with measured pacing and melancholy for “Your Shadow.” In contrast, the drummer is uninhibited and expansive on “Came, Left” and “Autumn Sky,” moving among gentle rolls, marching rhythms and energetic sheets of sound. There’s a narrative feel to each song on Mantle , with distinct chapters of free-improvisa- tion, melody and rock-influenced interludes. The trio also uses silence effectively to build tension as it interrogates the boundaries between the exper- imental and the accessible. Though the group hasn’t worked together long, its debut recording showcases a dynamic partnership that charts new territory in creative music.  —Ivana Ng Mantle: Nine Steps ToTheGround;Metaphors; FromSpring ToSummer; Your Shadow; Encounter; StrawCoat; Came, Left; AutumnSky; The TempleBell. (60:07) Personnel: Natsuki Tamura, trumpet; Satoko Fujii, piano; Ramon Lopez, drums. Ordering info:


Marquis Hill understands what we call “vibes.” That feeling of being in tune with unseen forces, one with the rhythmof our moment. During the past few years, his beat tapes—released through his ownBlackUnlimitedMusicGroup imprint— have been able to capture that sensation. Moving through hip-hop and neo-soul, his latest effort, Soul Sign , is a continuation of these sounds, rely- ing heavily on lyrical contributions from a few guests. And it works.

Woods, Boro the Lucky Libra, vocals. Ordering info:

Binker andMoses EscapeThe Flames GEARBOX 1570LTD HHHH 1/2

Though live performances still are paused, the past several months saw an avalanche of archi- val concert recordings be released. Saxophonist Binker Golding and drummer Moses Boyd captured some magic one evening in June 2017 at London’s Total Refreshment Centre, running through the first half of their 2017 album Journey ToTheMountainOf Forever (Gearbox). So many of the compositions on Escape The Flames are opportunities for Boyd to find every impeccable beat to push behind Golding’s playing. Surprisingly, though, the ree- dist plays sparingly throughout the evening.This isn’t to say it’s not flashy, just precisely what’s called for. Golding’s more adventurous show- ing on “Trees On Fire” definitely can induce the stank face. But it’s Boyd’s drumming that’s unre- lenting, always on beat yet always finds newways to go beyond it. Things open up more on “The Shaman’s Chant,” where the pair explicitly prove their sim- patico, weaving in unison and giving listeners a sense of their live performance as the album’s energy builds. There’s an arc here that happens organically, as opposed to the sequencing of their

studio releases. It has more to do the open time a live performance might have granted them, as opposed to the fierce acuity of a studio session. Yet, EscapeThe Flames is one of those live perfor- mances that really merited a release, regardless of the pandemic.The albumnowcould serve as a kind of consolation, providing a sense of connec- tion and discovery—elements captured in their finest form on one summer night in London.  —Anthony Dean-Harris Escape The Flames: TheDeparture; IntoxicationFromThe Jah- vmonishi Leaves; FeteBy TheRiver; TreesOnFire; The Shaman’s Chant; LeavingTheNowBehind. (66:41) Personnel: Binker Golding, tenor saxophone;Moses Boyd, drums. Ordering info:


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