At his final UK performance, at London’s Jazz Café on 9 October, I watched trumpeter Roy Hargrove play with his characteristic bebop intensity and sultry swing. He packed his five-piece band on to the stage and cruised through the funkier numbers from his fusion project, the RH Factor, as well as the straight-ahead jazz of his more recent work on Earfood, from 2008. There was no sign Hargrove was unwell; his death, on 2 November, was caused by cardiac arrest due to kidney disease.
Hargrove performed in his trademark suit and shades, the snappy dress code that added to his charm as an instrumentalist. His playing was slick, rarely exhibitionist and never individualistic. Seldom taking the microphone, except to thank the crowd for their support – his yearly sold-out performances at the Jazz Café were something of a residency – he let his instrument do the talking. The performance cemented his status as one of the great trumpeters of his generation.
Hargrove combined the jazz tradition with the soul revival and burgeoning hip-hop scene of the 1990s, and collaborated with artists ranging from his mentor Wynton Marsalis and saxophone legend Sonny Rollins to neo-soul stars D’Angelo, Common and Erykah Badu. The soft interlacing of his trumpet lines and horn arrangements on these critically acclaimed and commercially successful neo-soul and hip-hop records laid the groundwork for more recent jazz crossover work by the likes of Kamasi Washington, Keyon Harrold and Robert Glasper.
Read the feature on the Guardian.
[This piece was published on 06/11/18]