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Meet Roy Hargrove

By Published: August 15, 2007

RH: With Dizzy, it's the sheer joy in the music. This is something I enjoy as well. I enjoy communicated with those guys and having it come together. There's nothing like standing in front of that much power. It's heavy! Especially when it's all coming right at you and you're giving it right back to them.

AAJ: Has your experience with the big band influenced your playing with the quintet? Is there any connection between the two for you?

RH: It's different. It's totally different. The quintet is quieter and you can stretch out much more. A lot more improvisation and a lot less ensemble work.

AAJ: OK. You've been a leader now for around seven years...

RH: Seven? Has it been that long!

AAJ: Any lessons that experience has taught you?

RH: One of the most valuable lessons I've learned was being in the studio with Jackie McLean. Another was being on stage with Sonny Rollins. That was a real experience. This cat, he's so unpredictable. You don't know what he's gonna do. You gotta be on your toes.

AAJ: So what was the lesson you learned from either of them?

RH: Well, from Jackie McLean, for me, he embodies the whole history of the alto saxophone in jazz. From Bird all the way up to Ornette. His sound is like a tenor, but he's playing alto. To play with him, I felt like a sponge, man! And he has such a brilliant way of writing. He is another cat that influenced my writing. He's a very energetic soloist. This is something that influenced me. And having the chance to record with him, just took my development to another place. It opened my ears to a whole different genre of the music. As for Sonny Rollins, his unpredictability keeps his musicians guessing. You never know what he's gonna do. It's stimulating. We were trading on the once, you know, the conventional fours or eights or twelves. He started trading sixes! And then he traded three, and then he did two bars and he kept doing it and he looked up at me with this grin! I had to just kept my horn up near my mouth. Finally, we ended up playing together. I was oblivious to everything else that was going on. But after we finished, all the people were cheering. I was like "Whoah, they liked it!"

AAJ: Well, there's the old adage: the best music comes from making mistakes. It forces you to be inventive.

RH: Trial and error, man, trial and error!

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