Weekly Wire
Weekly Alibi Jazz the Har-way

By Michael Henningsen

FEBRUARY 15, 1999:  When most people think of Waco, Texas, they think of a bumbling idiot of an FBI and resultant fiery tragedy. But if the dusty little--albeit unwillingly infamous--Texas town is to be remembered for anything other than the Branch Davidian crisis, Lord, let it be remembered as the birthplace of one of America's most precious jazz artists, virtuoso trumpeter Roy Hargrove.

Born in Waco in 1969, Hargrove, now at the tender age of 30, attributes his current position among the best trumpeters and bandleaders in jazz as much to his destiny written in the stars as he does to the 20-odd years of study, practice and hard work that brought him to this place. Of his 1995 Verve release, Family, Hargrove says simply, "(That project) really shows how fortunate I've been." The record is glimmering testimony to the spirit of the music Hargrove creates and stands as an ode to his family, the people in his life who recognized and nurtured inherent talent in a young boy whose name is bound only to become as synonymous with jazz trumpet as are the names of Miles Davis, Art Farmer, Freddie Hubbard, Lee Morgan and other giants of hard bop.

But it was 1997's Habana (Verve) release that proved to be his breakthrough album. Surrounding himself with some of Cuba's finest musicians, Hargrove quickly formed Crisol, a 10-piece band who helped break through some of the barriers that had virtually prevented Cuban music--and musicians--from reaching a widespread stateside audience previously. With Crisol touring the U.S., Hargrove became revered as one of the great bandleaders of his time, all by the age of 28.

Hargrove's straight-ahead style avoids the overuse of any singular influence. His grooves are smooth and calculated, and his solos easily move from simmer to sizzle with nary a pause. Hargrove is a rare player whose excellence is derived not simply from intensive tutelage, but from a true love for the music.

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