Clad in his now trademark suspenders and bowtie, renowned trumpeter and bandleader, Roy Hargrove, was both fashionable and fashionably early for his 6pm set at Yoshi’s Jazz Club in San Francisco. Greeting the audience with a friendly “hey”, the adventurous horn master and leader of the Roy Hargrove Quintet, wasted no time getting down to business. Opening the night with bebop brilliance courtesy of a Charlie “Bird” Parker tune, the night was bound to be a buffet of soulfully elegant ballads, funk, and escapades in classic straight ahead jazz delivered in the rich, versatile tone of Hargrove’s horn.

Observing the audience, which looked ready for a musical feast, the crowd ate up everything Roy and his crew gladly cooked up. The horn weavings and natural interplay of Hargrove and alto sax player, Justin Robinson, emitted reminiscent rays of Miles and Coltrane. As sacrilegious as that may sound to the jazz purist, faith comes by hearing and what I heard I believe. Robinson’s velvety, at times robust alto sax and Hargrove’s melodic trumpet and flugelhorn, full of conviction and intensity dove heard first into call and response, smooth harmonies and solos with stand alone quality.

Acclaimed for his foray into an assorted brew of sounds, genres, and styles such as hip-hop, rock, soul, Latin, and big band, Hargrove stayed in the range of the elegant sophistication of melodic bebop, straight ahead jazz, and beautiful ballads. After one ballad, Hargrove took a departure to a funkier tune, but quickly cut back to another ballad. The audience did not seem to mind the song selection and the quintet never disappointed.

As is evident by his catalog of music, Roy is not only still creating, but also taking time to continue learning from the masters. Covering Jimmy Heath’s “A Song for Sore Ears”, Hargrove admitted he recently learned the song. By the sound of the song, Roy is a quick learner. He played fluidly without a hitch or tinge of discomfort. Following the Heath tune, Hargrove became emotional to the point of being without words when describing his love for mentor, Johnny Griffin, who came to visit a hospitalized Roy. Hargrove proceeded in compelling fashion to cover, Griffin’s ballad, “When We Were One” on flugelhorn.

One of the most giving leaders I’ve ever seen perform, Hargrove was no “ball hog” when it came to sharing the stage with his quintet. Pianist, Sullivan Fortner, a native of the New Orleans area, gracefully filled in the horn spaces with intricate melodies, while drummer, Quincy Phillips and bassist, Ameen Saleem, provided the relentless pulse and rhythm driving the sound between genres. Of course, the virtues of Justin Robinson’s dynamic alto sax have already been extolled. He effortlessly (on the surface at least) played in the tradition of Bird and Coltrance—nuff’ said.

Relaxed, composed, and seemingly totally immersed in the music and the moment, it is easy to see Roy Hargrove is passionate about his craft. As he treated the appreciative San Francisco crowd to a bevy of gorgeous, classic material the night was ended with the jovially groovy, “Strasbourg Saint Denis”, which continued lifting the spirits of an already elevated audience.

To hear more from the always entertaining, yet thought provoking, Grammy award winning trumpeter, check out the iRockJazz interview.

By Johnathan Eaglin

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