At 36, trumpeter Roy Hargrove has firmly established himself as among the premier players in jazz and beyond. Ever-stretching into more challenging and colorful ways to flex his musical chops, Hargrove has left indelible imprints in a vast array of artful settings. During his tenure on the Verve label alone, he has recorded an album with a hand-picked collection of the world’s greatest tenor saxophonists (With the Tenors of Our Time), an album of standards with strings (Moment to Moment) and, in 2003, introduced his own hip hop/jazz collective The RH Factor with the groundbreaking CD Hard Groove (swiftly followed by the limited edition EP, Strength). Hargrove has also won Grammy® Awards for two vastly different projects. In 1997, Roy’s Cuban-based band Crisol (including piano legend Jesus “Chucho” Valdes and wonder drummer Horatio “El Negro” Hernandez) won the Best Latin Jazz Performance Grammy for the album Habana. And in 2002, Hargrove, Herbie Hancock and Michael Brecker won Best Instrumental Jazz Album, Individual or Group, for their three-way collaboration Directions in Music.
“I've been doing more touring with RH Factor than my quintet lately,” Hargrove muses. “People are turning a deaf ear to jazz. Some of that is the fault of jazz musicians trying too hard to appear to be cerebral. They aren’t having fun playing the music and that's why people aren't coming to hear it live anymore.
What do we have to offer in the world of jazz today? It's about being innovative, which is cool. But innovation right now will come in music that's swinging and feels good. It's meaningless if it doesn't make you feel something.”
Bringing all this RH Factor funk to life is a unique ensemble of Roy on trumpet, two saxophonists (Keith Anderson and the legendary David “Fathead” Newman), three keyboardists (Charles McCampbell, Bobby Sparks and Neufville), one guitarist (Todd Parsnow), two drummers (Jason“JT” Thomas and Willie Jones III), and - most amazingly - two bass players (Lenny Stalworth and Reggie Washington). “My regular bass player, Reggie, couldn't make the recording sessions at first,” Hargrove shares. “So I hired Lenny, a friend from Berklee, to do the record. But when Reggie heard about Lenny – not wanting him to creep in and take his gig - he was like ‘Wait a minute!’ I thought, ‘two bassists-two drummers - let's go!’”
Roy Hargrove was born in Waco, TX on October 16, 1969. Inspired by the gospel music he heard in church on Sundays and the R&B and funk music that played on the radio, Roy began learning the trumpet in the fourth grade. By junior high school, he was playing at an advanced level of proficiency. At 16, he was studying music at Dallas's prestigious Booker T. Washington School for the Visual and Performing Arts.
Midway through his junior year, Roy was "discovered" by Wynton Marsalis, who was conducting a jazz clinic at the school. Impressed, Marsalis invited Roy to sit in with his band at Ft. Worth's Caravan of Dreams Performing Arts Center. Subsequently, Hargrove was able to return to the venue over a period of the next three months, sitting in with Dizzy Gillespie, Herbie Hancock, Freddie Hubbard and Bobby Hutcherson. Word of Roy’s talent reached Paul Ackett, founder and Director of The North Sea Jazz Festival who arranged for him to perform there that summer. This lead to a month long European Tour.
Hargrove spent one year (1988-1989) studying at Boston's Berklee School of Music, but could more often be found in NYC jam sessions, which resulted in his transferring to New York’s New School. His first recording in NYC was with saxophonist Bobby Watson, followed shortly by a session with up-and-coming super group Superblue, featuring Watson, Mulgrew Miller and Kenny Washington. In 1990, he released his solo debut, Diamond in the Rough, on the Novus/RCA label, for which he would record a total of four albums that document his incubational growth as a “young lion” to watch. Hargrove made his Verve Records debut in 1994 on With the Tenors of Our Time, showcasing him with stellar sax men Joe Henderson, Stanley Turrentine, Johnny Griffin, Joshua Redman and Branford Marsalis.
Every album Roy has released on Verve has been different from the one preceding it. And the same can be said of the array of talents who have invited him to grace the stage and/or their recordings - from jazz legends Sonny Rollins and Jackie McLean to song stylists Natalie Cole, Diana Kralland Abbey Lincoln. From pop veterans Diana Ross, Steve Tyrell and Kenny Rankin to younger stars John Mayer and Rhian Benson to the crème de la crème of jazz divas: Carmen McRae and the late, great Shirley Horn. Hargrove was also commissioned by the Lincoln Jazz Center to compose the piece “The Love Suite: In Mahogany,” which was performed in 1993. He is also a superstar of the international touring scene with his quintet, RH Factor and as a soloist.
Touching back on the statement Roy made at the outset about the state of jazz and jazz audiences today, the music world would be hard pressed to find another ambassador capable of traversing the worlds of straight ahead swingin’ and the funky underground better than Brother Hargrove. The RH Factor’s Distractions and The Roy Hargrove Quintet’s Nothing Serious stand as the actual proof.