@ the Queen Elizabeth Hall
19 November 2008
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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 CD Review
“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