Roy Hargrove will also appear in the Arena with the Kenny Barron Trio's Tribute to Dizzy Gillespie at 100 on Friday, September 15.
Born in Waco in 1969, Roy Hargrove attended Booker T. Washington High School, a performing arts school in Dallas, where he first tuned in to trumpet greats such as Clifford Brown, Freddie Hubbard, Miles Davis and Lee Morgan. During a visit to the school Wynton Marsalis allowed Hargrove to sit in with his band and encouraged the young musician to pursue a career in music. A few years later, having spent one year at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Hargrove settled in New York, where he attended the New School’s Jazz and Contemporary Music School and launched his career in earnest.
Hargrove’s debut quintet album, Diamond in the Rough, was released in 1990 on the Novus label. In 1994, signed to Verve, he released the critically-lauded With the Tenors of Our Time, on which he hosted some of his favorite saxophonists. Family included guest spots by two other Hargrove heroes, saxophonist David “Fathead” Newman and pianist John Hicks, and the following year’s Parker’s Mood was a tribute to Charlie Parker. By that time, Hargrove was already topping critics’ polls for his trumpet skills, winning Grammys and lending his skills to recordings by other artists, in addition to maintaining his own busy recording and performance schedule.
Since his own emergence in the late ’80s, Hargrove has led several diverse configurations, including the straight-ahead, hard-bop Roy Hargrove Quintet and Crisol, an Afro-Cuban ensemble that won a Grammy in 1998 for Best Latin Jazz Performance with its album Habana. With the funk-oriented RH Factor, Hargrove released the 2003 album Hard Groove, featuring guest appearances by R&B superstars Erykah Badu, Common and D’Angelo. But the big band affords Hargrove a long-awaited chance to indulge in his lifelong affection for the expansive sounds created by Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Maynard Ferguson and Gerald Wilson, all of whom he cites as influences. “The small group has been such a big deal for so long in jazz that people forget where the small groups came from,” says Hargrove, who has already showcased the Big Band in such high-profile venues as the Hollywood Bowl and SummerStage in New York’s Central Park.
In 2009 Hargrove took a 19-piece band into the studio and out on the road, with Emergence (Groovin’ High/Emarcy). “At [that] point this is probably the worst thing I could ever do, financially speaking,” admitted Hargrove. “But it’s something that needs to be done, spiritually and musically speaking.” The 11-track Emergence documented the Roy Hargrove Big Band’s ongoing evolution. In addition to Hargrove on trumpet and flugelhorn, the ensemble consists of four other trumpet players (Frank Greene, Greg Gisbert, Darren Barrett, Ambrose Akinmisure), four trombonists (Jason Jackson, Vincent Chandler, Saunders Sermons, and Max Seigel on bass trombone), five reedists (Bruce Williams, alto saxophone and flute; Justin Robinson, alto and flute; Norbert Stachel, tenor sax and flute; Keith Loftis, tenor and flute; and Jason Marshall, baritone sax and flute), as well as pianist Gerald Clayton, bassist Danton Boller, guitarist Saul Rubin, drummer Montez Coleman, percussionist Roland Guerrero, and vocalist Roberta Gambarini.
For Hargrove, whose previous release, 2008’s quintet session Earfood (Groovin’ High/Emarcy), found its way into dozens of jazz critics’ year-end Top 10 lists, recording Emergence was not some crazy impulse decision but rather the realization of a dream. The Texas-born musician assembled the first incarnation of the big band back in 1995 for a New York jazz festival, then returned to the format on a more frequent basis several years ago. Regular bookings at The Jazz Gallery, a not-for-profit performance space in lower Manhattan, gave Hargrove the opportunity to fine-tune the concept. He says, “The Jazz Gallery is for up-and-coming young players. I go around to jam sessions a lot, sit in with cats, and I think that the new generation doesn’t have a lot of experience playing in sections and playing in big bands. So this provides younger guys with a sense of camaraderie that is not really evident anymore in jazz.”