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What's so good about Roy Hargrove?
Before we begin, I must reveal my bias. I'm a trumpet player. And so any other trumpet player with outstanding sound and technique is going to rank fairly high on my list. But that's not all that's good about Roy Hargrove...
A quick look at some of Hargrove's acclaimed projects reveals the breadth of his ability. He won Grammy awards in 1997 (Best Latin Jazz Performance with his Cuban-based band Crisol) and 2002 (Best Instrumental Jazz Album for his contribution to Directions in Music, the Herbie Hancock-led tribute to Miles Davis and John Coltrane). In 2003 he introduced the world to his funk/hip-hop/jazz collective the RH Factor; and in 2010 he appeared at the TD Toronto Jazz Festival fronting a big band. It could be said that every album he's released has been different from the previous album.
A few things appeal to me in particular about Roy's playing. First is his sound. Oftentimes when a player's technique is discussed, what's being referred to is his or her ability to easily get around the instrument - high, low, fast, slow. Roy's got that ability, but he's also got incredible control over his sound. It's beautiful, round and full, but in the middle of an intense solo, he easily converts it to a fiery force with which to be reckoned. Second is his ability to truly tell a story when soloing. With Roy it seems to not be all about technique - he builds on each phrase, extending it out to complete a musical paragraph. Check it out (Roy's solo starts at about 5:38):
The third thing I notice in Roy's playing is how funky it is. In a group like the RH Factor, that may be expected; but even in his quintet, Roy not only swings - he grooves. Here's a track that demonstrates these various aspects: the melody shows off the ease with which he gets around the horn; his solo (which starts at about 4:15) starts off simply but then builds to a fever pitch, showing off his range of sound; and the whole thing just grooves like crazy.
And then there's the RH Factor (speaking of groovy...). Of the group, Roy says, "My goal with RH Factor has always been to try to erase the lines between the mainstream and the underground - straight ahead and hip hop/R&B." Of playing jazz in general, he suggests: "What do we have to offer in the world of jazz today? It's about being innovative, which is cool. But innovation right now will come in music that's swinging and feels good. It's meaningless if it doesn't make you feel something." With the RH Factor, it's hard to not feel something. Here's a short sample:
Roy Hargrove performs on the Mainstage at Nathan Phillips Square with his RH Factor on Monday, June 25, with Roberta Gambarini's quartet opening up. For complete details go to the concert page. It's gonna be groovy...