Two-time Grammy-winning artist Hargrove, 47, is a trumpet player of some renown, experienced enough to command sold-out crowds and his own repertoire of hits (The RH Factor), yet still youthful enough to bust a few moves of his own in the middle of a soulful croonfest after swapping comps and solos on trumpet and flugelhorn, with his trusty sidekick, saxophonist Justin Robinson.
Backed by a more-than-able rhythm section — infinite groovesmen Ameen Saleem on bass, Sullivan Fortner on piano, and Quincy Phillips stealing the show on drums — Hargrove led a full, impactful set of seven songs, two or three of them vocals, plus one extended encore.
In town for a four-day, six-set December special, the Quintet went everywhere together, from downtown funk to uptown central casting straight from the classic be bop/post-bop period, heavy on the gospel and blues.
They’ve been here before, showing a knack for musical conversation, which took over much if not all of the onstage banter. Very little needed to be said, other than the cursory introductions, made deep into the show.
This is a band that shows rather than tells, with telling synopses of the kind of jazz-speak they thrill to.
Right from the beginning, all eyes feasted on the rapid, fluid gunfire of drummer Phillips as he flailed on his kit with purpose and an eternal joy found only in a true believer. Even after the 9:30 p.m. show wound down and the crowd dispersed, a few stragglers caught him back onstage at the piano, bumping up a jazz tune playing on the intercom, a smile breaking out over his face.
Fortner, a burgeoning leading man finding his own colors on his critically acclaimed 2015 album, Aria, found moments to do more than comp idly along to the swaths of straight-ahead and experimental jazz churned by the two horn players up front.
As for Hargrove himself, he surprised everyone in the audience with an innate groove that sunk deep into his horn plays, preferring to augment and highlight rather than take over the proceedings. His voice also tucked into the seasoned groove of the masters of Motown and perhaps even a bit of the 1950s gospel R&B pop of the Platters and the Four Vagabonds, or the vintage vocal groups from farther back, the Swallows and the Ink Spots.
Hargrove and Fortner sang a gospel duet in sweet, two-part harmony for the seventh and last planned song of the set, wowing the audience with Sam Cooke’s oldie but goodie, “Bring It On Home To Me.” These guys can sing as well as they play.
The Roy Hargrove Quintet plays one more set Sunday.
Sullivan Fortner doing his thing with Roberta Gambarini last night. He and the rest of the band Justin Robinson... https://t.co/MQItEtoFz5— Jazz Alley (@Jazz_Alley) December 1, 2016