Saturday, 6 December 2008

Roy Hargrove RH Factor

In a shameless attempt to boost the number of hits to this page and reach the magical 10,000 figure by the close of 2008, here's a reprint of a review of a commerically slanted offering by trumpeter Roy Hargrove. The review was the only one I've ever written where I've ever had an "(...Ed)" inserted. As I recall it, the late Richard Cook added a cynical remark about shifting units to my musings about whether or not there'd be a follow-up record made in the same style.

As it turns out Hargrove seems to be back playing more straight-ahead stuff now. Was he simply pitching to the jazz-lite/crossover market in a cynical and exploitative manner, or was it an example of an enlightened record label allowing him artistic freedom?

As long as this post gets me to 10,000 by December 31st I don't really mind, and if it doesn't then the next post may need to resort to placing a reference to 'XXX Porn' in its title to pique the public interest...

Hard Groove
VERVE RECORDS (065192 2)

Hard Groove; Common Free Style; I’ll Stay; Interlude; Pastor ‘T’; Poetry; The Joint; Forget Regret; Out Of Town; Liquid Streets; Kwah/Home; How I Know; Juicy; The Stroke.

Roy Hargrove (t); Steve Coleman (as); Keith Anderson (ts); Jacques Schwarz-Bart (ts); Karl Denson (f); Marc Cary (ky); James Poyser (ky); Bobby Sparks (ky); Bernard Wright (ky); Chalmers Alford (g); Cornell Deupree (g); Pino Palladino (b); Reggie Washington (b); M’shell Ndegocello (b); Willie Jones III (d); Jason Thomas (d); Gene Lake (d); Erikah Badu (voc); Q Tip (voc); D’Angelo (voc); Anthony Hamilton (voc); Rene Neufville (voc); Stephanie McKay (voc); Shelby Johnson (voc). Recorded Jan-Feb 2002.

When trumpeter Roy Hargrove burt on to the scene with Diamond In The Rough (BMG) in the late 1980s I felt sure that a new star had been born. A passionate soloist with a bright tone handed down from Clifford Brown through Lee Morgan, Hargrove had the vital spark missing in many of his more fastidiously retro contemporaries. A switch to Verve produced a somewhat disappointing string of concept-driven recordings that somehow stalled that early promise.

The latest attempt to place Hargrove back on the map involves both a musical change of tack and a radical image makeover. Now sporting dreads and calling on the services of string of stars from the worlds of rap and R&B, we are presented with the RH Factor. Regardless of how the industry comes to terms with the declining interest in jazz, the music of Hard Groove will be what most interests JR readers. Those hoping for a return to his post-hard bop roots will find little succour. Others more at ease with the latter phases of Miles’ career, or Steve Coleman’s mature M-Base sound, will almost certainly enjoy this vibrant new release. ‘Hard Groove’ is a kaleidoscope of contemporary black musical styles reaching far beyond any narrow views of jazz. We get hip hop, soul balladry and driving locked-groove funk - but always enough jazz to satisfy on the more cerebral level. “I’ll Stay” is a slice of organ-drenched soul from the Funkadelic songbook, and it’s nice to see that Ken Vandermark isn’t the only person to realise the jazz potential of Clinton and Hazel’s music.

Amongst many other highlights are ‘Pastor T’, which places Hargrove’s searing trumpet right up front, and ‘Out of Town’ which has a dazzling Steve Coleman cameo. Whether or not this disc hits the intended targets of the brash marketing strategy behind it, Hargrove’s statement succeeds artistically, and places him within the same populist musical continuum that Mile embraced after his Jimi Hendrix and Sly Stone epiphanies. The decision whether or not to continue in this vein may ultimately belong more with Verve than Hargrove. For now though, Hard Groove deserves to provide pleasure to those masses for whom it is unashamedly intended.

Fred Grand
(Jazz Review, August 2003)

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