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 Frank 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 couldn't have slipped a Euro buck between their licks.
Performing 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 Roy's personal compositions, the best being "Ballad for the Children" from his award-winning CD, Habana. Other pieces included Irby's "Lullaby" composition written for his granddaughter and Willis' "Big Mama's Biscuits." Every number was A-1 and the best thing besides Roy's high energy performance was the way he allowed the other musicians to showcase their talent. "Ouch, ouch!" he chimed while grooving to one of Irby's scorching riffs as Roy stood side stage.
Roy´s 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. "Don't forget I am a child of the 70's. 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. It's a whole new thing for me," he smiled with enthusiasm. "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 straightahead jazz trumpeters of the 1990's. It will be interesting to keep an eye on this young, talented artist to see what the Millennium ushers in.
Suzi Price is one of our newest staff writers and we want to send out a special thanks to her for a great feature story. Suzi is an American (Los Angeles) living in Belgium (near Brussels), she is a free-lance writer and contributing journalist with Key Magazine which is a publication distributed to all NATO forces and their dependents throughout Europe. As a complete jazz fanatic, most of her published work is jazz concert reviews and critiques. Suzi's significant other, Jos Knaepen is a very talented jazz photographer whom we also hope to feature more of on the site.