It’s been about two months since I saw the Roy Hargrove Quintet live in Seattle and I’m still not totally over it. I’ve written before about how I’m not the most die hard live music fan, but this performance was hands down one of best I’ve ever seen and made any hassle of live music shows worthwhile.
It was complete happenstance that we got to see him that night. Our friends Nicholi and Tiffany had scoured the city of Seattle for live performances and had found nothing worth attending, save two jazz groups, neither of whom they knew. Imagine my delight when one of the names they dropped was the Roy Hargrove Quintet.
Roy Hargrove is a jazz musician who has been performing for upwards of a quarter century. He’s played with a slew of incredible musicians, some famous and some not so, and can be found providing lush horn arrangements for a surprising number of decently popular tracks. Among these side gigs are several co-writing and performing credits on D’Angelo’s groundbreaking, pedestal-topping sophomore record, Voodoo. Colls and I got to see him close the Chicago Jazz Festival over Labor Day weekend in 2011, among probably five to ten thousand fans. It was a great show, so I jumped at the chance to see him again.
We called and got insanely reasonably-priced tickets for the second set of the night, and headed to Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley about 9 PM. We walked into a room that could fit probably about 200 people total. Sensual lighting and clinking glasses, it was as stereotypical as a jazz club can get. We were escorted to our booth, approximately 30 feet away from the stage. Our seats couldn’t have been better. The band is announced and comes on stage; Hargrove immediately kicks off the set and goes to town. From there, it was an hour and a half of jazz.
Lots of people might not think that sounds great, and before this concert, I might have been one of them. But there is something about the way Roy Hargrove plays, and the way his Quintet elicit sounds and melodies out of each other. At times gorgeous, at times smokey, at times spooky, at times frenetic, the music they created together was all over the map. Even with piano/percussion/bass/sax/trumpet, they pulled in sounds of current pop, club music, bebop jazz, and modal jazz. I even heard the Pink Panther riff at one point.
Minus a cloud of cigarette smoke lingering above the musicians, it felt exactly like seeing Miles Davis in 1961. With a contemporary twist. At the show’s closer, Hargrove and Justin Robinson (sax) came off the stage as they were playing and walked among the audience tables. They walked past our booth and I could’ve reached out and touched them. I was literally three feet away from a guy who co-wrote songs on Voodoo. I still can’t get over that. But they morphed the whole smokey ’50s jazz club into a New Orleans Big Band parade with two musicians. I recorded the audio with my phone, and the quality is certainly lacking, but even with poor audio, I’ve listened to the playback of the show probably 20 or 30 times since, and these five musicians coalesced so effortlessly to bring us this ever-changing array of musical styles underneath the umbrella of jazz horns and piano and bass and drums.
The following clip is about three and a half minutes long, and I would encourage you to listen to the whole thing. And go see them live if you get the chance. It really is an insanely cool experience. Can you spot the pop song Hargrove references at 2:50?