Roy Hargrove Quintet at Jazz Alley

By , December 18, 2009 5:08 pm


A couple of weeks ago I went to see Roy Hargrove at Jazz Alley.  I knew beforehand that this was going to be straightahead, post-bop type stuff, not his neo-soul band RH Factor, which I would love to see live someday, but I realized that it had been quite a while since I had seen a touring, non-local band tear into some really swinging stuff.  For that matter, I couldn’t remember the last time I had been to Jazz Alley.  Granted, the covers are always over $20, and I can never afford to get dinner, but when it comes down to it, there just aren’t very many venues for the jazz bands with the heavies that we read about in magazines or on websites, those guys that are labeled as the leaders of what’s going on in jazz in the world.  If you want to see them, you need to pay the money, and if you’re in Seattle, you pretty much have to go to Jazz Alley.

I would say Roy is one of those guys, and I had never seen him live before.  He definitely did not disappoint, moving from originals to tunes written by Horace Silver, John Hicks, and Johnny Griffin, burning tempos to quiet and slow swing tunes.  His sound was expressive throughout the set, and the rest of the group was just as impressive.  Justin Robinson had an awesome raw alto sound, and some of his ideas reminded me of Eric Dolphy, really pushing his tone, time, harmony, and range of the horn.  It almost felt like the thing was going to come apart.  Jonathan Baptiste’s piano playing was equally melodic and thematic, sometimes pounding out rhythms with both hands, sometimes letting his right hand take off, and, when locking in with Montez Coleman on drums, his comping was off the hook.  It was great to hear him on the Hicks tune “Naima’s Love Song”, a tune I’m really into right now, and Ameen Saleem got a chance to shine there on bass as well.

Another cool aspect of the night was that although most of the night was straightahead swing, you could tell from the way these guys were playing it that they were into other styles of music.  Maybe that perception is colored by my knowledge that Roy is all over the map with genres, playing with John Mayer, D’Angelo, etc., and, as you can see from the photo, his fashion sense is a fusion of different stuff too, but there’s something in the playing also.  Hard to explain, I guess, but I really felt like they were playing the material differently than a die-hard straightahead jazz fanatic would, and the material was not suffering in any way because of this, which I find equal parts impressive and encouraging for anyone who worries about the “jack of all trades, master of none” problem.

3 Responses to “Roy Hargrove Quintet at Jazz Alley”

  1. Henry Rose says:

    Thanks for the writeup, i was wishing i could have checked this out. It’s crazy how you have to pay to see the heavies when they come to town. I guess that’s why their the heavies though … We make it to a few shows at the Triple Door every now and then, haven’t been to Jazz Alley in ages!

  2. Jason Parker says:

    Thanks for the review, Art! I’ve seen Roy a few times, some of them were awe-inspiring and some not so much. But I’ve always appreciated his willingness to play all kinds of music, and he’s a great trumpet player no doubt.

    As for pay to see the heavies…I know it’s tough to come up with that kind of cash on a regular basis, but I have to think that most of that cover is going to pay the musicians, and I’m all for that. I’m glad there are still cats out there that can command that kind of price, and as long as I feel like I’m not being gouged by the venue I’m happy to pay. That’s what we want people to do when they come see us, even though its on a smaller scale.

    Just food for thought…

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