The Jazz.com Blog
October 07, 2008 · 0 comments
That’s what Roy Hargrove did, once again, at Boston’s Sculler’s Jazz Club last weekend. In a set of straight-ahead fire, over-the-top funk, and virtuosic flugelhorn, this lean and elegant horn player delivered the goods from the opening note to his R&B finish. Backed up by his touring band (except for pianist Alan Powell, who sat in for Gerald Clayton), Hargrove and his sidemen played world-class jazz. Even more, they were really having fun up there. It seemed like they were playing two shows—one for the audience, and one for themselves—and everybody ended up having a ball.
Hargrove’s instrumentation and accessible melodies are reminiscent of hard-bop Blue Note—sort of a latter day Horace Silver, with less Cape Verde and more funk. Dressed in a dapper gray suit and gold tie, Hargrove opened with an uptempo straight ahead number. His bright trumpet solo ended on sustained notes in the top register, a technique he used often, sometimes resolving with a descending line. Complementing this, Justin Robinson let out all the stops with fluid alto phrases which he worked into talking, squawking grunts that drove the crowd wild. Danton Boller supported the band with a fat, fluffy bass. His solo work combined a good melodic sense with a judicious balance of ultra-fast phrasing and simpler statements. On piano, Alan Powell crouched into the keys, his lead sheets sometimes flying off the stands. Powell took a fair number of risks in his heavy, percussive riffs, runs, and tremolos, anchored sometimes by a McCoy-influenced left hand.
After their high-energy opener, the band switched to a shuffle with an infectious swing, and Robinson’s alto wove fluid lines, floating up and down scales through the changes. No notes in his long phrases were gratuitous: they stopped and rested naturally on patterns and motifs at times, supported by the band’s clean, fat pocket. In contrast to Robinson, Hargrove played a minimalist solo, crafting his lines from a phrase in the tune. You might call him (as someone once said about Miles and Coltrane) the Hemingway to Robinson’s Faulkner.
Drummer Montez Coleman definitely must eat steak, he guides the band with such a steady, strong hand. He’s a great choice for the group and its recent CD Earfood. Kicks and greasy fatbacks shot through his straight ahead playing on backup and on a solo punctuated by tight horn shouts.
When Hargrove changed the mood with a flugelhorn cadenza into “Never Let Me Go,” the romantics in the room got what they came for. Lifting and connecting the melody, Hargrove just sang a beautiful song with that horn. Then he put his horn down, and sang it again. But if you were pulling your girl close to kiss her, you lost your chance when she broke out laughing, as Hargrove burlesqued the sappy lyrics, mourning his over-toyned world and his boyned bridges, all because of love’s pangs. He moved into a double time solo and a fine R&B cadenza. Smart guys seized the smooch moment then.
Next, the band played a tune I’d call “Transylvania Swing”—a Latin/funk groove that alternated with straight ahead phrases, and ended on a dark Mussorgskian line. It opened with a stately horn line, and after Powell changed the feel with wild, percussive choruses, Hargrove alternated pithy bites and lines, influenced by Miles’s later playing over steady chord vamps. When Robinson started wailing on alto, building intensity into his solo even with single repeated notes, Hargrove broke into a dance, strutting, caught up in the music.
As on other dates, Hargrove ended with the old R&B standby “Bring It on Home to Me.” But before he did, he reminisced about the town where he went to school and got to sit in—“that is, receive public floggings,” he said—with great players. Hargrove in turn brought up some Berklee students, but he never carried a whip. They played a blues and they were great. When the drummer, dropping a stick mid-solo, kept the beat going, recovered, and finished strong, the audience jumped up with applause. After the students finished, Hargrove’s regular band came on to exchange bear hugs with their younger brothers.
“Now that’s the future,” Hargrove said.
This blog entry posted by Roanna Forman