Roy Hargrove was a hard bop-oriented musician and one of America’s premier trumpeters during the late ’80s and beyond. A fine, straight-ahead player who spent his childhood years in Texas, Hargrove met trumpet virtuoso Wynton Marsalis in 1987 when he visited Hargrove’s high school in Dallas. Impressed with the student’s sound, Marsalis allowed Hargrove to sit in with his band and helped him secure additional work with major players, including Bobby Watson, Ricky Ford, Carl Allen, and the group Superblue. Hargrove attended Berklee for one year (1988-1989) before relocating to New York City, where his studio career took flight.
In 1990, at twenty, he released his first of five recordings for Novus. Besides Novus, Hargrove also recorded for Verve and as a sideman with notable figures such as Sonny Rollins, James Clay, Frank Morgan, and Jackie McLean, and the ensemble Jazz Futures.
His Verve album roster includes 1995’s Family and Parker’s Mood. Habana (a Grammy-winning album of Afro-Cuban music) and Moment to Moment. Hargrove also contributed to R&B albums by Erykah Badu and D’Angelo but remained indebted to hard bop with albums such as 2008’s Earfood and Emergence (with his big-band). Sadly, Hargrove died in November 2018 at the young age of 49. Before his death, he had been on dialysis for over a decade and died from cardiac arrest associated with his kidney disease.
On Tuesday, Jan. 8, at the close of the 2019 Jazz Congress, approximately 200 musicians gathered at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Frederick Rose Hall in New York to honor Hargrove. Hosted by his close friend and frequent collaborator Christian McBride, the concert began with a traditional New Orleans second-line procession by Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. Five hours later, it ended with deep-groove performances by members of Hargrove’s acclaimed jazz/funk/neo-soul group the RH Factor. Among the artists making an appearance during this final phase of the night was the rapper Common, an indication of the wide stylistic range of Hargrove’s work. The tribute was a testament to Hargrove’s body of work and enduring legacy.