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The Roy Hargrove Quintet at The SereNgeti


Last weekend the Roy Hargrove Quintet performed at the SereNgeti Ballroom. Alto saxophonist Sherman Irby joined trumpeter Roy Hargrove on the front line. The rhythm section was anchored by veteran pianist Larry Willis, and included Gerald Cannon on bass and Willie Jones III on drums.

On Saturday night, from Mr. Hargrove's first note, a distinct musical energy filled the friendly room on Woodward. Before the band had finished eight bars of the first tune, the members of the audience knew they were in for a night that they would remember for some time. Hargrove has few, if any, peers among his contemporaries. His growth in recent years has been phenomenal. Those who have been listening to him for a long time are delighted to hear how comfortable he has become across the full range of his instrument. He is a player who can now express himself in the upper register, which he uses not simply at the end of a line or phrase but at will within the melodic context of his playing. He is also at ease with long notes, using them to his advantage both for variety and expression. In both sets on Saturday night he brought out his flugelhorn. His renditions of "Never Let Me Go" and "My Foolish Heart" were indeed memorable. He has always been known for the warmth of his tone. That such a young man can play ballads with such soulful excellence is truly something to note.

Roy Hargrove has a twinkle in his eye and a bounce to his step, an enthusiasm that transfers to the band, the music and the audience. He shows that he is having fun, that he loves his music and loves presenting it. His group, together for about a year and a half, is tight and crisp, obviously enjoying the freedom that comes to them under Hargrove's leadership. They all had their moments out front and took full advantage of them. Most notable was Sherman Irby, a thoughtful, expressive player, at times quick, stacking idea on top of idea, at times bluesy, always soulful and always in synch with the essence of Hargrove's music. This is a group of five musicians who enjoy being on stage. They bring the music to the audience. Their professional yet jocular demeanor serves to loosen up the crowd, helping to establish a quick, steady rapport. Indeed, on Saturday night the members of the audience were quickly in step with the music of The Roy Hargrove Quintet.

No one since Freddie Hubbard or Miles Davis is as exciting as Roy Hargrove, who combines all aspects of musical excellence with an extremely engaging stage presence.