By Suzi Price
Jazz purists say none can compare to the legendary jazz performers like Charlie Parker, Stan Getz, Chet Baker or Miles Davis. They were musicians who lived and breathed the art form, but one must admit, jazz exists through musicians who performed it in the past and those who perform it now. Transending the new breed of jazz musicians, some stand apart from the jazz-based music that today might be labeled "smooth jazz" which is anything but jazz in its purist form. One such artist is jazz trumpeter, Roy Hargrove.
If you were lucky enough to catch his performance January 6th at the Motives for Jazz presentation at the Cultureel Centrum De Kimpel in Bilzen, Belgium, you would have recognized Roy as one, exceptionally gifted musician with a rich tone and inventive style.
Playing with his sextet (minus Steve Lacy, trombonist, who was ill) was Sherman Irby - sax, Larry Willis - piano, Gerald Cannon - bass and Willy Jones - drums. The group was so tight you couldnt have slipped a Euro buck between their licks.
Peforming two sets, the second set the tastiest, the quintet offered up two jazz standards, "My Foolish Heart" and "Never Let Me Go" and a few of Roys personal compositions, the best being "Ballad for the Children" from his award-winning CD, Habana. Other pieces included Irbys "Lullaby" composition written for his granddaughter and Willis "Big Mamas Biscuits." Every number was A-1 and the best thing besides Roys high energy performance was the way he allowed the other musicians to showcase their talent. "Ouch, ouch!" he chimed while grooving to one of Irbys scorching riffs as Roy stood side stage.
Roys versatility is obvious, but some say his forte is the long, slow ballad. In a personal interview, I asked Roy about it. "I enjoy ballads and like listening to them," Roy said. " I am a romantic at heart and love to love. I like to learn the lyrics of a ballad. It helps me to understand the feeling of the song. I use the lyrics to project my execution of a particular piece," he explained. "Of course, I am from Texas and in the beginning I started playing the blues. I was exposed to the blues at an early age. My family would sit around an listen to the blues while playing dominos," he reminisced. "Those purists," he sighed. "Dont forget I am a child of the 70s. I grew up with the Temptations. Those are my roots. There is a vast world to be explored to be a complete musician," he said. None would argue how Roy loves to get his chops in a variety of jazz venues.
When I asked him about new projects that may be forthcoming he said, "I have a lot in the works. I am always busy. I think my fans may be surprised with the upcoming CD of D'Angelo. I did all the horn arrangements on it. Its a whole new thing for me," he smiled with enthusiam. "I have a follow-up to my last CD and a Live Village Vanguard also. Then too, I am working with the 18-piece big band I did concerts with in Europe last summer," he added.
With his wide appreciation of music and enthusiasm, one thing stands clear. Roy Hargrove proves to be one of the outstanding straight-ahead jazz trumpeters of the 1990s. It will be interesting to keep an eye on this young, talented artist to see what the Millennium ushers in.
Roy Hargrove Photo ' Jos Knaepen, 1999.