Roy Hargrove: Emergence (2009)
As a trumpeter, composer, and an arranger, Roy Hargrove has been a mainstay of the contemporary music scene in a variety of formats for nearly two decades. Nevertheless, his big band experience has been limited mostly to his appearances with the Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band, with which he has most ably proved himself an heir to the late trumpet legend's mantle. Hargrove has been steadily accumulating big band experience in his own right since 1995, however, and Emergence is therefore most aptly titled, for it represents Hargrove's full-fledged emergence into the large ensemble idiom.
While the tone poem "Requiem," by composer and trombonist Frank Lacy, was probably intended as the CD's tour de force, it's a major disappointment. After a most promising brass fanfare, with an arpeggiated woodwind countermelody reminiscent of Ravel's "Daphnis et Chloe," "Requiem" lapses into an eight-minute ostinato vamp under self-indulgent alto and trombone solos, accompanied only by the rhythm section. Eight minutes is an unusually long time for the full band to lay out, and Hargrove's own contribution is limited to a few brief exchanges with the trumpet section. The saving grace is the recapitulation of the opening tutti.
On the other hand, the remainder of Emergence exhibits Hargrove in full flight as captain of his 19-piece ensemble. Arrangements have been furnished by baritone saxophonist Jason Marshall (the hard-bopping "Ms. Garvey, Ms. Garvey"), bass trombonist Max Siegel (a Kentonesque interpretation of the Rodgers and Hart classic "My Funny Valentine"), the iconic Cuban pianist Jesuss "Chucho" Valdes ("Mambo for Roy"), and Hargrove himself.
"September In the Rain," which features Hargrove on both Harmon-muted trumpet and a mellow vocal, appears to have been arranged in a Basie-inspired vein by pianist Gerald Clayton. Clayton, in fact, is the son of composer, arranger, bassist, and co-leader John Clayton of Los Angeles' Clayton/Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, a major inspiration for Hargrove's aggregation. Vocalist Roberta Gambarini, Hargrove's erstwhile colleague with both the Gillespie band and jam sessions at NYC's Jazz Gallery, adds her velvet voice to Cole Porter's "Every Time We Say Goodbye" and the Spanish-language "La Puerta." On the latter track, she is reminiscent of Linda Ronstadt on her early-1990s Latino-jazz romp Frenesi (Elektra, 1992).
Hargrove also seems to have absorbed influences ranging from McCoy Tyner ("Tschipiso") to Gerald Wilson ("Roy Allan") and Billy Strayhorn ("Trust") in the band's full-voiced sonorities. Emergence definitely proves that Hargrove, 39 years old at the time of this recording, is ready to add his name to the list of large ensemble leaders.
Track Listing: Velera; Ms. Garvey, Ms. Garvey; My Funny Valentine; Mambo for Roy; Requiem; September In the Rain;Every Time We Say Goodbye; La Puerta; Roy Allan; Tschpiso; Trust.
Personnel: Roy Hargrove: leader, composer, arranger, trumpet, fluegelhorn, vocal; Frank Greene: trumpet and flugelhorn; Greg Gisbert, : trumpet and flugelhorn; Darren Barrett: trumpet and flugelhorn; Ambrose Akinmisure: trumpet and flugelhorn; Jason Jackson: trombone; Vincent Chandler: trombone; Saunders Sermons: trombone; Max Siegel: bass trombone, arranger; Bruce Williams: alto saxophone, flute; Justin Robinson: alto saxophone, flute; Norbert Stachel: tenor saxophone, flute; Keith Loftis: tenor saxophone, flute; Jason Marshall: baritone saxophone, flute, reeds; Gerald Clayton: piano, arranger; Saul Rubin: guitar; Danton Boller: bass; Montez Coleman: drums; Roberta Gambarini: vocals.