Jazz music as it stands today is not always a clearly defined line of communication. On one end, there is an overwhelming force called smooth jazz that attempts to define what the public should be listening to. In the middle, there are groups that make every effort to stay close to tradition with the varying styles of true original jazz. These are the innovators of jazz, whose music has been driven by the intuitive creative spirit that comes from within. Their impact has been passed on to a new generation of jazz musicians.
Out there on the cusp of creativity are the cutting-edge musicians. They are constantly evolving and incorporating varying styles of music into jazz. They too represent innovation and improvisation. One such individual who has continuously pushed the envelope of jazz composition is trumpeter Roy Hargrove, an artist who pulls much of his music from the streets. However, he is more than capable in playing jazz of any style. His latest CD entitled Distractions is yet another indication of his remarkable style and talent.
Born in Waco, Texas, Roy Hargrove has always been a visionary when it comes to music. He has openly recorded albums featuring varying jazz styles that have included straight ahead, hard bop and contemporary influences. Depending upon his mood and the venue he finds himself in, Roy Hargrove can be funky or traditional, which sometimes puts him in a category of unknown origin. But make no mistake about it, Roy’s talent is etched in exploring the true measure of jazz in all of its flavors. This may explain why no two performances are ever the same and no two albums are ever alike.
Distractions continues an ever-evolving revolution of musical nuances. This latest CD was simultaneously released with another album entitled Nothing Serious, with the latter being closely aligned with mainstream jazz. The other release is far removed from the second release. In fact, there is a serious, funk-filled groove that drives a confounding rhythm. The dynamics of hip-hop, R&B and jazz are prime factors in its approach.
The RH Factor is a precision propelled quintet that goes through its paces with high-end energetic riffs, coupled with Hargrove’s trumpet driving the melody. When analyzing Roy’s talent, his music is outspoken and accomplished without a hint of compromise. At times he can be as subtle as a lullaby, but in the blink of a 16th note, Hargrove is off and running through a barrage of lightening fast nuances.
On this release, Roy Hargrove is a funk-filled master blaster on trumpet. In addition, there are extreme levels of talent present to pull Distractions together, including David "Fathead" Newman on saxophone. The first tune is the title track, which stands as a prelude of what is about to transpire. It is one minute and 21 seconds of fast paced thrust that leads to Renee Neufville’s vocal rendition of "Crazy Race," a track that is influenced by tradition. Following her vocalese, Hargrove hyperlinks to "Kansas City Funk," another one of those hard-driving, rhythm-oriented pieces that is again augmented by intertwining melodies. From then on, nothing is ever quite the same because Roy ebbs and flows into R&B-styled melodies as heard on "On the One" and "Family." He then jumps back into the fusion mode with "A Place," a tune reminiscent of the days of George Clinton & Parliament/Funkedelic, the true "Kings of Funk."
Overall, The RH Factor is an album that is pleasantly surprising, even though it goes back and forth across lines of fusion-based influences. In the final analysis, Distractions creates a path for the ever-evolving influences of jazz and the opportunity to be a true original.