Friday, April 30, 2010

Grooving with Roy Hargrove at Yoshi's

My musician brother James visited from Italy a while ago. I took him to hear some music.

I write for fun as well as for a living; James' "busman's holiday" is going to hear other musicians work it out. In this case, it was trumpeter Roy Hargrove at Yoshi's San Francisco, with special guest Pharoah Sanders.

I knew Roy's work from playing around on the Decca Records website and was happy to have a chance to see him live, and James was particularly happy also to see Pharoah Sanders again. My brother is the kind of guy who always knew what he wanted to do when he grew up, and started making a living as a working musician in his teens. During those years, he also saw every cutting edge band of the day live in concert. So while I was at home watching cartoons, he'd seen Jimi and Zappa and The Who and Miles and The Doors and Pharoah, that madman of the tenor sax.

Yoshi's San Francisco (the newer of the two clubs in the Bay Area; the older original is in Oakland) was packed. It was sold out on a Thursday night, though Roy was in residence and would play eight shows over two weekends. I've always loved the crowds at these shows. The audience is full of people who know and love music but who are not too cool to show their appreciation --- and damn, everyone, old and young and in-between, "presents" so well.

There was casual conversation around our table: some chatting about previous Hargrove concerts, a table debating the relative merits of the new breed trumpet players, an older couple who had heard Pharoah play with his mentor, John Coltrane.

Roy was playing with his quintet that night, and as he entered, I thought, "That is one dapper cat." His attire was retro-modern, and for a moment it was like I was flung back to a club somewhere in the early '60s, watching this artist grooving to the sounds of the other musicians before he lifted his horn to his lips.


It was off to another world.

Hargrove lives in the grooves. His style is smoky and fluid and cool at one moment, then bursts into staccato energy, then turns bold and bright. Versatility is a hallmark of the Grammy-winning artist, and I considered myself privileged to hear not only his talented quintet, but also his brief collaboration with Pharoah Sanders, of another generation and school of jazz. I was engaged in every tune in the 90 minute set.

I don't know the title of everything that Hargrove played, but the set list included:

Speak Low

After the Morning (by his mentor, John Hicks)

(Pharoah Sanders then joined the group)

John Coltrane's Transition

[A new song, as yet untitled, that Hargrove said he composed on the plane coming west]

Serenity of Solitude


Writing about music is like dancing about color: I can't summon the words to describe how great the evening was and, since I am not a musician, I don't have the technical vocabulary. (For what it's worth, James came away impressed and entertained.) Fortunately, from what I have heard to date, Hargrove's recordings capture much of the intensity of his live performances.

So check out these sites, and see the man for yourself when he comes to your town. I'm sure glad I did.

The Roy Hargrove Quintet's recent CD is called "EarFood." It's aptly titled: an evening with Roy is indeed an aural feast.

Indulge yourself.

Roy Hargrove Decca Artists Page

Roy Hargrove Store at

Yoshi's Jazz Club and Japanese Restaurant (Oakland and San Francisco)