Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Roy Hargrove Quintet

When: Monday, Sept. 9, 2008 • Where: Dakota • Who: Roy Hargrove, trumpet and flugelhorn; Justin Robinson, alto sax; Gerald Clayton, piano; Danton Boller, bass; Montez Coleman, drums

This quintet is golden out of the gate, big and blazing. Hargrove says the first tune, "Depth," is "a song about sea turtles." Maybe it is and maybe it isn't. On a speedy version of "Close Your Eyes," Hargrove stands like Miles at the mike, head and shoulders back, pelvis forward, trumpet muted, playing up and out. Something by Lou Marini featuring Robinson on sax, then Hargrove on flugelhorn. Lambent. A flugelhorn solo leads into "Never Let Me Go" and Clayton (bandleader John Clayton's son) plays coruscating piano, and the flugelhorn returns, pleading.

A drum solo opens a Latin tune with Clayton taking over the infectious jumping rhythm. I'm in a mist of music, knowing this is as fine as anything I have heard anywhere, ever.

A bolero, "La Puerta," the door.

Lowell introduces the second set by saying "Roy Hargrove's quintet is at the top of the world." Another flashy start: "Extra Giblets." Clayton has let his dreads down. A powerful saxophone solo, a profoundly sad piano solo, and a trumpet solo Hargrove enjoys so much he interrupts himself to shout "Whoa!"

Dexter Gordon's "Society Red." Sax and trumpet spell it out, then Robinson takes a knowing solo. Hargrove mutes his trumpet to a sexy whisper. Someone shouts "Go Miles!" Then bass and piano and drums, a rhythm trio, no-sweat swing. An amazing bass solo.

Two sets in a row at the Dakota add up to a long night; you're here in your seat by 7, maybe get up between sets, then sit back down until 11:30 or later. Tonight every minute is worth it. The second set is even better than the first. They're taking longer solos, hanging out more, exploring more. "Once Forgotten," a tune by Pamela Watson, Bobby Watson's wife. Sam Cooke's "Bring it On Home to Me" from the new quintet CD, Earfood. The trumpet is sending out sparks. "The Challenge," a tune Hargrove recorded on Family (1995).

Lowell says Hargrove has been coming to play at the Dakota for 18 years.

An encore; where do they get it? Piano, bass, and drums, slow and easy. Brushes on drums. Soft flourishes on the piano. Hargrove on flugelhorn, all low notes and longing. Then something funky and it's over.

Photos by John Whiting.

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