This week a couple of friends and I went to Lawson’s Second Hand CD store, on Pitt St in the city. It was my first time but people have been recommending the place for ages. You never know what you can find in a second hand CD store, which I guess is the whole fun of it. One of the gems I picked up was ‘Roy Hargrove and Antonio Hart: Live In Tokyo’. It’s an album that I’ve owned digitally for a while but never thought I’d get my hands a physical copy. In terms of straight ahead albums it’s right up there with the Blue Note releases of the 50’s and 60’s, if you ask me. Getting my hands on it reminded me of one of Roy’s solos from the album I transcribed a while back-a burning rendition of But Not For Me. I thought it’d be cool to post it up, but also to showcase some of my favourite Roy Hargrove clips.
Everyone knows Roy Hargrove is one of the hippest cats this side of the galaxy. Everyone also know that Roy Hargrove knows how to compose a groove, not to mention knows how to blow over one. You only have to check out his quintet playing ‘Strasbourg Saint Denis’ live in Paris on the [you]tube to understand what I’m saying. But what you might not know is that Roy has bop chops to revival the likes of Clifford and Kenny. But more on that in a bit. For the moment let’s go on a bit of an audio-visual journey on my favourite Roy Hargrove musical moments, starting with the aforementioned clip.
I know most of you have watched the shit out of this clip- I know I have- but kudos to the guy, his tune has become a standard in funk and neo-soul jams. If you haven’t seen the clip below…well, i’m not angry-just disappointed.
That was from 2007. Also, just quietly, how amazing is Gerald Clayton. That’s the same pair of hands that accompanied Ambrose in his duet of ‘What’s New’ I posted a couple of weeks ago.
Any-who, here’s another one of my favourite Roy clips with Roy’s most revered collective, his RH Factor, back in 2003. A couple of things to note in this clip: Firstly, the two drummers [and how surprisingly tight it sounds], the out-of-this-world sax solo, Roy playing through effects + his incredible time and single tonguing. Also more on the aesthetic side, the keys player’s hooped earrings and um, the bass player.
Impressive hey? Well I got one more. This one is a lesser know Hargrove video of him played with Glasper’s experiment last year. It’s a half hour video . If you’re not ready for this audio experience i’d chuck it in your favourites for another day, but it’s a must-listen.
I love this video because as a trumpet player and a Glasper fan-girl one of my mouth-drooling fantasies was to hear a trumpeter play with the experiment. I couldn’t think of anyone better suited than Roy to jam with Glasper and co. Also, I love how his presence ever so slightly changes the vibe of the band. I guess a word of warning that this bootleg is a legitimate bootleg, not one of those Sony double remastered triple re-released ‘bootlegs’. You don’t really get the full force of Roy’s silky smooth tone on this one, but the vibe’s still there.
So I lied. I got another video or two. But they are both cookin’ I promise. So basically, we’ve witnessed Roy in all his funk-ing, grooving, hipped-out glory…and I havn’t even mentioned his work on D’angelo’s ‘Voodoo’ or Common’s ‘Like Water For Chocolate’. What-a-guy. But as I touched one earlier, what some might not know about Roy is that he is also a really, really heavy bop player.
Time for some backstory. I believe he first caught the eye of a young Wynton Marsalis who heard him whilst travelling through state schools doing workshops. The year would of been round 1980 where acoustic jazz had sported a revival thanks to
Sony BMG Wynton battling against the evil forces of fusion [JK].
Roy undoubtedly became part of that revival. There’s a video somewhere on the tube of a young Hargrove who was part of the ‘Jazz Futures’ Band at the 1990 Newport Jazz Festival. The video features some heavies of the now-most noticeably Christian McBride-but also some great players that I’ve never heard of. I wasn’t going to link it up what the heck. Everyone plays great on this clip but I think the start is the most intriguing. Roy give some explanation to the fruition of the band and mentions that they are “trying to deliver a message.” Somebody asks “which is?” Interestingly, one of his band-mates, who I think is a young Christian McBride passionately states “try to play tradition!” [right after someone else exclaims “swing!”]. He goes on to say, “there is a big interest in being different, but if you leave out the elements of tradition there is very important part of this music missing”, which if you ask me is a heavy bout of neo-acoustic revivalism- ala Wynton Marsalis. Let me just make clear that I don’t necessarily disagree with the quotes above, im just trying to piece together a contextual backdrop.
Roy then adds something about the music coming from your heart and not being able to ‘masquerade’ it, which is cool. Looking back, the first time I watched that video I thought Roy was a staunch traditionalist at the time but I now think he was sensitive to tradition and gave it a damn lot of respect, but also had other musical ideas in sight eg. RH factor/general hipness. Wonder what he would think of that tie now.
There is no doubt that they can all play. Roy is especially great. I have to link one more video that fellow trumpeter and all round good guy Will Endicott showed me a while back of Roy blowing over Stablemates in Benny Golson’s 7tet. The year was 2000, so skip forward from Newport a decade. The same year he released an album with string [I’m yet to check it out] and interestingly he released his first RH factor album only two years later. Note to self: find some synonyms for interesting.
As you all know, Stablemates is not an easy tune to blow over but Roy deals with it like a boss. Chops anyone? Also, a valiant effort by Curtis Fuller on the bone.
So, to come full circle, when I told a friend about my Lotus Blossom transcription he retorted, “Is that the tune that Roy plays on that Tokyo album?” The album he was referring to was ‘Roy Hargrove and Antonio Hart: Tokyo Sessions’. He let me borrow his ipod for and listened some select tracks, including Lotus Blossom [which was phenomenal] but also Roy’s rendition of the much-done Gershwin classic ‘But Not For Me’ which from his solo break had me all ears. Man, so much language. So much. I was blown away. That night I got my hands on the album and started transcribing that solo. I secretly felt bad transcribing Roy for tradition/language at first but in retrospect- it was a fool’s though. Language is language. I’ll transcribe the guy next to me if he plays some tasty line that I want in my playing.
Anyway, it’s a killer solo and I’m glad I transcribed it. I’m also glad I found out that Roy not only tasty in his own music but in tradition. I think he is a great role model in that sense, that is, to have your own unique voice but also be well cemented in the voice of tradition- but that’s a talk for another time.
Can’t find the audio anywhere so I’m gonna upload it to the tube because I’m a nice guy.
UPDATE: Mission Upload: Successful.
P.S. Just noticed this PDF has some draft marks on it. Sorry about that. I’ll clean it up ASAP.