Roy Hargrove, already in the vanguard of young musicians,
explores the Afro-Cuban jazz tradition in Habana, his
latest Verve release. Recorded in Orvieto, Italy in January 1997,
Habana is an exciting update of the Afro-Cuban jazz sound.
Roy is the latest in the line of trumpeters seduced by Afro-Cuban
music and rhythms leading back through kenny Dorham and others to
the man, Dizzy Gillepsie.
Hargrove on this labor of love is an impressive cast of American,
Cuban and Puerto Rican musicians. In addition to the leader
theres Gary Bartz, Frank Lacy and Russell Malone from the
States; from Puerto Rico David Sanchez and John Benitez; and from Havana, Cuba, little
heard (at least in the U. S.) legends Chucho Valdes (piano), Miguel Anga Diaz
(conga drums), Jose Luis Changuito Quintana
(timbales), Horacio El Negro Hernandez (trap drums)
and Jorge Reyes (acoustic bass).
steeped in the trumpet tradition was, of course, well-acquainted
with the Cuba-jazz relationship that long preceded him:
Dizzys historic collaborations with Chano Pozo; trumpeter
Mario Bauza and band leader Machito; Afro-Cuban jazz development
in general. But he hadnt been to Cuba. And - due partly to
the political and social issues that complicate free exchange
between Americans and Cubans in all walks of life - he
hadnt yet met the primary living exponents of Afro-Cuban
that changed in 1996 when Chucho Valdes invited Roy
and his band to participate in the 16th Annual Havana Jazz
Festival, of which Chucho is artistic director.
Hargrove and company accepted the invitation and they spent 11
days in Havana, absorbing the culture, the sights, and especially
his very first night there he sat in with the groundbreaking
Cuban group Los Van Van. From there the word about the young
American got out and the rest of his stay was a whirlwind of
sitting in, sharing musical ideas on-stage, dazzling the locals
and being dazzled in return. A strong connection with Cuban music
and musicians was forged.
playing with those cats made me realize that every note has to be
played like its your last one, declares Roy. The
musicians are so incredible, so dedicated. It opened my eyes and
made understand what it was like to really play. You cant
be a mediocre musician there, you have to be excellent. It was an
spark had been struck, a flame kindled. Later that year further
collaborations (especially with Chucho and
Anga) took place in New York and Europe with equally
incendiary results. Naturally, recording with these fabulous
musicians became a priority.
the year was out the stage was set - in Italy. The performances
on Habana were taped during a week-long residency at the
Umbria Jazz Festivals winter edition in
Orvieto. For a week-and-a-half, Hargrove and his band played and
rehearsed in two historic halls: the opera house Teatro
Mancinelli and the Palazzo di Sette, a 13th -century palace
converted to a performance space. They played each day and night
to increasingly enthusiastic audiences; the last day was devoted
to a recording session, sans audience, at the trio.
tunes Roys considerable compositional skills are
represented by three titles. Dream Traveler, a joyous
6/8 romp and a good example of why El Negro is the
most talked-about drummer to hit the U.S. scene recently. The
superb Ballad For the Children, was written, Roy
says, ...for all the young people getting involved in
the music. The Mountaings was
inspired by a spectacular view from the mountains near Los
penned two fiery tunes: the festive Mambo For Roy,
and minor blues, Mr. Bruce. Mambo was
used as closer at each performance. It was first
arranged for my big band, then we modified it for this
group, says Roy. Because it has a lot of
different movements, with a percussion section and a half-time
section at the end, its a favourite of mine.
lovely Nusias Poem became a performance with
two-pianist and two-drummers when John Hicks and Idris Muhammad
(who were also playing the festival) joined the band. Setting the
spiritual tone for the album is Lacy's mesmerizing O
Mi Seh Yeh, which opens and closes the album.
is rounded out by spirited covers of Kenny Dorhams
best-know Afro-Cuban composition, Una Mas and
the album Hargrove displays the ever-improving chops and musical
taste which inspired Newsweek to state: The
hottest trumpet player in the world... is Roy Hargrove. Its
on the level of emotional conviction that Hargrove really
delivers the goods. On a ballad, his trumpet fairly purrs. When
he plays the blues, you can believe he means it.
Furthermore, Down Beat declared the 27-year-old trumpet to
be ...the mainstreams most remarkable case of
commitment to this music includes a summer jazz festival tour
with the same unit (plus or minus a few musicians) under the name
Roy Hargroves Crisol. Watch for them.
Hargroves talents will continue to take him many places in
the coming decades. None are likely to affect him - or be
affected by him - as deeply and powerfully as Habana.
Biography courtesy of Gabriele
Kleinschmidt Promotions - GKP