@ the Union Chapel, London
28 June 2011
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Roy Hargrove was born in Waco, Texas, October 16, 1969. He was
surrounded by music from an early age (his father was a musician
in the army) but it was his elementary and high school band director,
Dean Hill, who sparked his interest in a performing career. Hill
would prove to be an important mentor and guide encouraging Hargrove
to explore many elements of jazz and various jazz musicians.
Hargrove spent two years at Boston’s prestigious Berklee
School of Music (1988 -1990) and attended the New School for Social
Research Jazz and Contemporary Music Program in 1990. During this
time Hargrove could also be found sitting in on jam sessions with
various musicians around New York City clubs.
Trumpeter Wynton Marsalis invited Hargrove to sit in with his group
at the Caravan Of Dreams Performing Arts Center in Fort Worth, Texas
after listening to his performance at the Dallas Arts Magnet High
School. Marsalis would later contribute on Hargrove’s acclaimed
1995 “Family” album.
Hargrove’s debut album “Diamond in the Rough”
and three succeeding recordings were among the most commercially
successful jazz recordings of the early 1990’s. Hargrove however,
would not rest on his laurels and continued honing his craft by
performing with jazz luminaries such as saxophonist Sonny Rollins
and trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie.
To date Hargrove has worked, or recorded with the likes of Sonny
Rollins, Herbie Hancock, Branford Marsalis, Joushua Redman, Jackie
McLean, Natalie Cole, Diana Krall, Diana Ross, Rhian Benson, Erikah
Badu, D’Angelo, the late Shirley Horn and Kenny Rankin to
name a few.
The Roy Hargrove Quintet - Earfood
“I’ve been doing more touring with RH Factor than
my quintet lately. People are turning a deaf ear to jazz. Some of
that is the fault of jazz musicians trying too hard to appear to
be cerebral. They aren’t having fun playing the music and
that’s why people aren’t coming to hear it live anymore….”
The above words by Hargrove have certainly been voiced before,
especially by individuals who appreciate the softer side of jazz
(smooth jazz) as well as those who just dislike jazz full stop!
Such a statement will probably encourage a few jazz musicians and
straight-ahead jazz heads wince in disgust (or denial) depending
on which side of the fence you reside. However, such straight talking
from one as learned as Hargrove does carry greater credence than
Hargrove’s rich reflective tone is easy on the ear allowing
the listener to become fully immersed within the broad textural
range of his trumpet & flugelhorn; this is specifically evident
on his breathy interpretation of Kurt Weill & Ogden Nash’s
“Speak Low” and Lou Marini’s “Starmaker.”
At this point it is important to highlight to straight-ahead jazz
heads – Hargrove’s “Earfood” will not
be sitting comfortably within the smooth jazz section of any store,
online or otherwise.
Hargrove’s compositions fuse many flavours here. The quintet
convey the fusion like a family who have shared life, love, and
secrets over a fully laden dinner table. Such is the power of this
quintet’s sense of natural cohesion.
Hargrove and fellow saxophonist Justin Robinson’s call and
response sequencing on the swinging R&B flavoured “Strasbourg
/ St. Dennis” is reminiscent of the classic Sam Cooke Lou
Rawls vocal call and response on “Bring It On Home To Me”
(ironically covered by the quintet on a live recording later on
in this set). Beneath the surface of “Strasbourg / St. Dennis”
(a Hargrove composition) is a strong gospel root that will not be
denied. Such is the versatility and openness of Hargrove, he is
able to completely fuse such influences with ease.
The Roy Hargrove Quintet has done a tremendous job here in
reminding both musicians and listeners alike that jazz ‘can’
be serious fun.
Roy Hargrove – Trumpet & Flugelhorn
Justin Robinson – Alto Sax & Flute
Gerald Clayton – Piano
Danton Boller – Bass
Montez Coleman – Drums
© Michael Valentine Studio Ltd.