Roy Hargrove has technique to spare, and one could easily concentrate on the fine points of such stylistic virtues as his economy of phrasing and purity of tone. But at his best, the still-young trumpeter goes beyond that: he elevates style to the level of substance. Thus, his economy of phrasing becomes not just a technique but a philosophy; his purity of tone transcends the medium to become the message itself. Hargrove’s earliest solos (he first recorded in 1988) displayed what have become his trademarks: a hip attachment to the blues; a penchant for the utterly lyrical improvisations that distinguished the music of Lee Morgan and Freddie Hubbard; and the artistic swagger more often associated with the saxophonists of his native Texas. Thus far, Hargrove’s career has borrowed from the famous biological principle that governs organic development (“ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny”) as his bands have traced a loose history of postwar jazz. His first groups paired his trumpet with alto saxophone, recapturing the classic bebop timbre of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. He then moved to the sound more associated with postbop quintets by hiring tenor saxist Ron Blake (a former Chicagoan), whose crowded solos create a swirling counterpoint to Hargrove’s lean phrases. And the last album under his leadership, a cast-of-thousands panorama entitled Family (Verve), pushed the envelope a little further, revisiting sounds and textures from the mainstream 60s and 70s. It’s not so cut-and-dried; Hargrove has big ears, and his familiarity with classic Latin-jazz beats, soul music, and contemporary pop is evident on all his CDs. But this analysis does suggest that his most important work may still lie ahead, as he explores other historical developments and perhaps spearheads one of his own. Tuesday through Thursday, 8 and 10 PM, next Friday and Saturday, November 29 and 30, 9 and 11 PM, and next Sunday, December 1, 4, 8, and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand; 312-670-2473.


Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/ James Minchin.