Sunday, January 12, 2014


Trumpeter Roy Hargrove
“It’s cool in here. But, you know once Roy Hargrove starts playing the place is going to heat up,” said the man seated near me at the second concert of the Jazz at the Centre. The man was right. It was nippy inside the Paul Robeson Theatre at the Northwest Activities Center Saturday evening where Hargrove, 44, one of the leading trumpeters of the 90's generation, played a two-hour set with his quintet.

Hargrove is skilled at fusion, at neo-soul and at every form of bop under the sun. This concert was heavily post-bop with some funk stirred in. It took about four tunes for Hargrove to hit his stride, which was unusual. It was the fourth time I’ve caught one of Hargrove’s concerts in Detroit. Normally, he hits the stage swinging. 

This time out, he started out flat, but when he finally got it together he was magnificent. I overheard someone say that Hargrove has had some health issues recently, and he takes dialysis regularly. That may explain his flat start.

Hargrove’s quintet – pianist Sullivan Fortner, saxophonist Justin Robinson, bassist Ameer Saleem, and drummer Quincy Phillips – opened the concert with a string of middle tempo tunes.  

Hargrove and Robinson shared the frontline with Robinson shouldering most of the workload until Hargrove hit his stride, which happened after he played the ballad You’re My Everything

When Hargrove pulls out his flugelhorn bank on him playing a ballad that’ll make you feel mushy inside. The audience roared after Hargrove finished the ballad. 

Then Hargrove surprised everybody when he sung Never Let Me Go. I never knew he could sing. After that number, Hargrove got a second wind. It’s easy to tell when the music is bubbling inside of him. After a solo, he moves behind the band and he dances about the stage.

Hargrove’s quintet is tight as new leather work boots. The quintet works in shifts. Robinson and Fortner carried the first half of the set, and Phillips and Saleem showed up big time the last half.

The most exciting number was Starsbourg/St. Denis from Hargrove'a 2008 album Earfood. On that cut, Fortner had the piano sinning while Robinson wolfed down the changes like cupcakes. 

For my money, Fortner and Phillips were the standouts. Fortner is a  marksman. And Phillips is flashy but not an overpowering jazz drummer.

Hargrove and Robinson closed the concert by playing while walking through the audience.  A move favored by some smooth jazz musicians. The audience ate it up. 

After they settled down, Hargrove spoke at length for the first time. He let on how much he loves playing in Detroit because Detroit is a serious music city. Then for an encore he played three more tunes. 

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