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Meet Roy Hargrove

By Published: August 15, 2007

RH: Oh man, that cat! I'll tell you, when I met him I was really freaked out. I was about sixteen or seventeen when I met him. He was fourteen. He was like in junior high school, or something! [laughs] Man, look here, we were at this thing called "Music Fest" in Chicago, and it was one of those things where you travel with your school for competitions. The group that he was playing with was called the All-Philadelphia Trio. They selected three cats from all over Philly. It was him, Joey DeFrancesco, and a drummer. That drummer is playing funk now. He's out on the road with Janet Jackson. Joey, well you know Joey. He's an organ player, piano and organ, one of those incredible, multi-instrumentalist, freaks of nature [laughs]. Well me and Chris started a jam session. It was me and him and a couple of other cats—a drummer and a guitarist. Chris played the whole night and he knew every tune. He didn't let nobody else play bass. Well, nobody else wanted to play bass after hearing him. He was just playing Fender, man. I didn't even know he played upright. So you know I was in for a big surprise. The next day I went to go hear his group with Joey. Chris was playing upright, and I said ?Wow!? In Dallas, nobody played upright. Everybody was playing Fender. That's the weird thing about being in the South, in Texas. The thing is, fusion is looked at like jazz. If you're going to be a musician and you want to make money, everybody thinks that you must thrust yourself into the contemporary world of music. And the history of it seemed to be pushed back. Even now, if you look at it now, I can't even go to my home town and play a gig. I mean if I did, I would take a big loss, financially. They don't have even have the venues down there. It would have to be something special like a jazz festival or a concert with the state kicking in money to make it happen. But that's not likely. It's not profitable. The radio stations don't play jazz, really. They play mostly contemporary players. So the bass players, play electric, Fenders and Ibinez. So when I saw this cat playing upright, man, I was like, "Wow, he's fourteen years old playing upright!" And to top it off he was like bowling! [sings a bass line] He really blew my mind. I knew he was bad, but I didn't know he was that bad! And he had heard me the day before. So we had a connection right there. I knew we would see each other again, after that. This was after I had met Stephen. So I had met Stephen, then I had met Chris. Another cat that I had met around that time was Christopher Holiday, an alto player. I don't know what happened to him. I think he's back in school now. He was also a very promising talent. He knew all of the Charlie Parker stuff. You know, that was enough for me. I dug him. It was really something to be able to meet Chris during that time. And also Joey. He was really incredible to me. He could walk the bass line and solo in the other hand.

AAJ: You, Stephen Scott and Christian McBride eventually got together to record Parker's Mood.

RH: Yeah, I think you can hear, in that recording, the history that we have together.

AAJ: What inspired you all to record in that format, with bass, piano, and trumpet?

RH: Well, that was an idea that came down from the producers. But we had had a lot of experience of playing in that setting from playing at Bradley's. We just moved that Bradley's thing into the studio. It was a challenge playing without a drummer. But, Christian has a really solid pulse. And you know, the drums are in your head. That's the way I was thinking about it. When I was making that recording, I was hearing the drums in my head.

AAJ: Did you feel that you had to replace the drums in time keeping, or did you leave the pulse unstated?

RH: I think that you can hear the drums without them being there on the recording. You can hear the drums without actually hearing the drums. We weren't consciously trying to focus on filling in what the drummer wasn't doing. We could hear the drums inside. It's all about the language of the music. The drummer has his role. He may have a certain sound, a cymbal pattern, and accents, on the four or the one or whatever. I mean when you have musicians who play together well, those accents come together even more. I mean on some of the greatest albums like Dizzy Gillespie and Oscar Peterson there's no drums or bass on that. But you can hear it. Because of the rapport that they have with one another. They're playing together. It's really beautiful. That's the beauty of this music. You can take any instrumentation and still have communication among the musicians.

AAJ: But it does make a difference. It sounds different with or without the drums in there. Do you find that different opportunities or challenges arise when you remove the drums?

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