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Hargrove 'lets it happen'

The trumpeter wraps his music around yet another style with his latest recordings.

By PHILIP BOOTH
Published June 12, 2003

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[Publicity photo]
“When you’re a musician, you have to be complete,” says Roy Hargrove of his switch to a propulsive, rhythm-heavy trip on Hard Groove.

Hard Groove, the new CD from Roy Hargrove and the assemblage of hip-hop, neosoul and jazz musicians he has dubbed the RH Factor, comes off as a radical departure for the Texas-born trumpeter.

After all, Hargrove, a former Wynton Marsalis protege, joined pianist Herbie Hancock and saxophonist Michael Brecker for last year's acclaimed Directions in Music CD and tour. The all-acoustic group's material and concept was heavily indebted to the 1960s work of Miles Davis and John Coltrane.

And Hargrove's earlier albums, dating back to his 1989 debut as a leader, have been decidedly oriented toward the jazz mainstream. He offered ballads backed by strings on 1999's Moment to Moment, hooked up with Cuban musicians for 1997's audacious Habana and saluted bebop pioneer Charlie Parker on 1995's Parker's Mood, an intimate trio outing with bassist Christian McBride and pianist Stephen Scott. Hargrove also saluted Parker on Birds of a Feather, an all-star 2001 recording led by drummer Roy Haynes.

So, yeah, Hard Groove, a propulsive, rhythm-heavy trip engaging the talents of singers Erykah Badu and D'Angelo, rappers Q-Tip and Common, bassist Me'shell NdegeOcello, jam-band favorite Karl Denson on flute, and about 25 other musicians and vocalists, does seem like a veering-off in a new direction. But the trumpeter offers another view.

"It's kind of like wearing a different suit," he said recently by telephone. "It's all one world to me. When I went to school at Berklee (College of Music), I hung out with the funk cats, the gospel crew and the jazz people. When you're a musician, you have to be complete.

"It's not like switching (genres). It's just a matter of adapting to the style. You can find just as much freedom in repetition as you can where if you're playing, like, a soloist with numerous arpeggios. There's a freedom you can get from locking into a certain kind of tempo. If you're in the pocket you can't beat that."

Hargrove in recent years has also played on recordings by high-school classmate Badu (Mama's Gun), Common (Like Water For Chocolate), D'Angelo (Voodoo) and Denson (Bridge). He grew up on his dad's collection of records by the Ohio Players, Booker T and the MGs, and Parliament, and he's long had his heart set on a project driven by heavy urban grooves.

"Being from Texas, you've got to play some funk around there," he said. "You've got a lot of blues and gospel in your ear, coming up. I've been starting and stopping this for a while. I've just never really gotten it out to the general public. It was just a matter of getting the record company to back me up."

Hard Groove, sparked by a handful of riffs and rhythms Hargrove retrieved from his own archives of material, began in earnest in March 2002. The trumpeter, according to an account in Down Beat magazine, spent two weeks splitting time between a Village Vanguard engagement with his straight-ahead quintet and recording sessions at Electric Lady Studios.

There, the vibe was loose and collaborative, resulting in a disc that sounds that way, from the bouncy Common Free Style to the electric funk of Juicy, with former Zhane singer Renee Neufville to a gospel-edged version of Parliament-Funkadelic's I'll Stay, with D'Angelo out front. For Poetry, Badu flows gracefully over the grooves with Q-Tip and NdegeOcello. Hargrove and Co. recorded 45 tracks, mostly first takes, in about 18 days.

"I wrote the rule book several times and had to throw it away," he said. "The musicians were so creative. I learned from people like Quincy Jones and Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie and other great leaders, just how to move out of the way and let it happen."

Preview

Roy Hargrove and RH Factor perform as part of the Verizon Music Festival at 8 p.m. Friday at Skipper's Smokehouse, 910 Skipper Road, Tampa. $20. (813) 977-6474. Other Verizon acts: Bo Diddley with Koko Taylor and Clarence Gatemouth Brown, 7:30 p.m. today, Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, 1010 N MacInnes Place, Tampa. $15-$35. (813) 229-7827. Rippingtons with Michael Franks, 8 p.m. Friday, Mahaffey Theater, 400 First St. S, St. Petersburg. $35-$39.75. (727) 892-5767. Soulive, 8 p.m. Friday, Jannus Landing, 16 Second St. N, St. Petersburg. $16. (727) 896-2276. Joe Cocker with Roger McGuinn, 8 p.m. Saturday, Mahaffey Theater. $39.75-$45.75. (727) 892-5767. Acoustic Syndicate with Theresa Andersson Group, 8 p.m. Saturday, Skipper's Smokehouse. $10-$13. (813) 977-6474. Big Bad Voodoo Daddy with the Vodkanauts, 8 p.m. Saturday, Jannus Landing. $15 advance, $20 day of show. (727) 896-2276.

[Last modified June 11, 2003, 10:46:12]


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