Saturday, January 08, 2011

Roy Hargrove's Music Is Food For Ears

This review of Roy Hargrove appeared in the October 2008 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 309) on page 19. As I type this introduction, I am getting ready to see him this evening (January 8) at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC for the first of the two sold-out shows. Among the young lions who has emerged in jazz the past few decades, Hargrove brings forth fresh jazz while rooted in the tradition, whether lading his quintet, fabulous big band or simply being a member of the Dizzy Gillespie All Star Band. Earfood is his most recent quintet release I believe.

It is astonishing that Roy Hargrove is not yet 40, as his recording career almost spans a full decade. His latest album is Earfood for Emarcy and features his trumpet and flugelhorn with his working band of Justin Robinson (saxophone), Gerald Clayton (piano), Danton Boller (bass), Montez Coleman (drums).

A solid modern date which is intelligently programmed with a few choice chestnuts mixed in with Hargrove’s intriguing originals that transverse a wide landscape of moods and grooves. The sizzling opening, Cedar Walton’s “
I’m Not So Sure,” kicks off like an Art Blakey cooker, while the mood shifts on “Brown,” with nice mute playing from Hargrove, but the whole group is terrific. The empathy they display is an element is one the crucial reasons why this is such a solid effort. “Starmaker” is another lovely ballad with strong solos from Hargrove, Robinson and Clayton. “Joy is Sorrow Unmasked,” is a melancholy tinged tone poem followed by the bouncy bop of “The Stinger.” “Mr. Clean” is built on a funk bass line, somewhat evoking Cannonball Adderly and similar soul-laced jazz, while “Speak Low,” is another ballad with Robinson sitting out and Hargrove playing marked by its ruminative flavor.

A live performance of Sam Cooke’s “
Bring It On Home to Me,” takes us back to the church and the blues with Robinson and Hargrove engaging in a spirited call and response before Hargrove launches into perhaps the most fervent playing here followed by Clayton sounding like he is playing in church. It is a spirited close to a terrific collection of performances by one of the leading groups playing today.
I received a review copy of Earfood either from Jazz & Blues Report or from Emarcy Records or a publicist for this release.

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