Trumpeter Roy Hargrove's 15th release, Earfood, is one of his best, showing that this not-so-young lion is in top shape. The disc features Justin Robinson (alto/flute), Gerald Clayton (piano), Danton Boller (bass) and Montez Coleman (drums), with Robinson's gushing alto ebullience, slightly loose around the edges, the perfect foil for Hargrove's eclectic moods, which range from brash and feisty to moody and introspective. Clayton is a real find, who 'speaks' swing, blues and gospel with fluency and feeling.
Earfood is a well-balanced banquet, offering a funky hard bop appetizer, straight-eighth-note cookers, a healthy portion of ballads and a live gospel send-up for dessert. "Strasbourg/St. Denis" is crisp and catchy and "Joy is Sorrow Unmasked" a tenderly inflected rumination. Lou Marini's "Starmaker," Kurt Weill's "Speak Low" and "Rouge," played out-of-tempo, are all standout ballad performances, often featuring the leader's irenic flugelhorn.
On Aug. 1st 2008, Hargrove brought his big band (including the entire Earfood combo) to the Central Park bandshell in New York. In spite of heavy rainshowers midway through the set, hardcore fans were rewarded with a generous set of stirring arrangements and dynamic soloing, including a guest appearance by vocalist Roberta Gambarini who scatted with dazzling brilliance over "On the Sunny Side of the Street," the first of three encore numbers. Hargrove even sang one himself, "September in the Rain," featuring lively call-and-response between himself and the band.
Track Listing: I'm Not So Sure; Brown; Strasbourg/St. Denis; Starmaker; Joy is Sorrow Unmasked; The Singer; Rouge; Mr. Clean; Style; Divine; To Wisdom the Prize; Speak Low; Bring it on Home to Me.
Personnel: Roy Hargrove: Trumpet and flugelhorn; Justin Robinson: alto sax and flute; Gerald Clayton: piano; Danton Boller: bass; Montez Coleman: drums.
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