Nov 4, 2018
The passing of Roy Hargrove this past weekend at the age of 49 comes as an unwelcome shock. Hargrove, who died of cardiac arrest brought on by kidney disease, had carved out a spot for himself in the jazz world with music that was particularly important to me. His loss to the music world is virtually immeasurable.
As one of the young lions that followed the arrival of Wynton Marsalis on the scene, Hargrove was a peer of Joshua Redman, Antonio Hart, Carl Allen, Stephen Scott and Christian McBride, and recorded with all of them. Having cut his teeth with Bobby Watson in 1988, He quickly made a name for himself as leader with eight albums in five years for the Novus imprint. By then he was in demand for recording and tours by legends like Sonny Rollins, Jackie McLean, Jimmy Smith and Shirley Horn.
But what made Hargrove so special for me was the way he took his deep rooted sense of the history of the jazz trumpet and made it into a truly contemporary musical instrument. At the same time he was writing his own tunes and breathing new life into standards by Monk and Parker, he was affiliated with a collective called the Soulquarians, a wonderful merger of hip-hop, neo-soul and jazz with artists like Erykah Badu, D’Angelo, Questlove, and Common. He brought his jazz sensibility to their recordings, and they allowed him to expand his sound by creating the RH Factor, a group that allowed him to play jazz-funk with hip-hop stylings.
His two Grammy award wins stand as a testament to his versatility. The first came on the striking Habana project with his multicultural band Crisol. There Hargrove took electric jazz and melded it into the Afro-Cuban sound created by one of his idols, Dizzy Gillespie, creating something that smacked of tradition, but was very new in deed.
Teaming with Herbie Hancock and Michael Brecker in 2002, he received his second Grammy for the live album Directions in Music, where he had the responsibility to sit in the Miles Davis chair in a dense reimagining of the work of Davis and John Coltrane. It was an album with a sound that clearly hearkened back to the acoustic quintets of the late Fifties, but never seemed anything other than progressive in execution. It remains one of my favorite albums of the time.
I missed Hargrove’s final Newport Jazz Festival appearance this summer, choosing to stay out of the pouring rain rather than brave the elements and stand in the now swampy field in front of the Main Stage. I hear he was excellent that day. He was never anything less.
Podcast 645 attempts to give you a feel for the great diversity of Roy Hargrove recorded output, featuring his many styles, and with recordings as both a leader and sideman. The tribute includes:
Roy Hargrove - “Premonition” from Diamond in the Rough
Roy Hargrove - “End of a Love Affair” from Approaching Standards
Christian McBride – “The Shade of the Cedar” from Getting’ To It
Roy Hargrove -“Mambo for Roy” from Cristol Habana
Roy Hargrove & the RH Factor – “Juicy” from Hard Groove
Roy Hargrove and Antonio Hart – “Work Song” from The London Sessions
Roy Hargrove Quintet – “The Stinger” from Earfood
Herbie Hancock, Michael Brecker, Roy Hargrove – “The Sorcerer” from Directions in Music