ROY HARGROVE: ‘Emergence’ (Label: Emarcy)

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ROY HARGROVE: 'Emergence'

Trumpeter Roy Hargrove’s reputation grows and blossoms album by album. Following last year’s superlative straight-ahead offering, ‘Ear Food,’ the versatile 39-year-old Texan horn maestro returns with what is undoubtedly his most ambitious recording yet – a big band album featuring a huge supporting cast of instrumentalists and a guest appearance by Italian chanteuse, Roberta Gambarini. ‘Velera’ – an impressive Hargrove original – is a striking opener: it possesses a brooding quality and richness of texture in its arrangement that suggests the large ensemble work of the great Gil Evans. By contrast, the swing-driven retro-style ‘September In the Rain’ resonates with echoes of the Count Basie Orchestra while the propulsive ‘Ms. Garvey, Ms Garvey’ doffs its cap to Ray Charles’ brand of soul-infused jazz. Ultimately, though, ‘Emergence’ transcends the sum of its influences – while it’s respectful of the jazz tradition (there are gorgeous updates of the standards ‘My Funny Valentine’ and ‘Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye’) there are some strong, envelope-pushing compositions: take, for example, Hargrove’s stupendous, ‘Tschipiso,’ a complex, dynamic piece bursting with exciting tightly-honed ensemble playing and brimming with rich tonal colours. Another extended piece, the sombre ‘Requiem,’ catches the ear with its ostinato bass rhythms, dense chord clusters and trilling woodwind filigrees. The trumpeter’s penchant for Latin music manifests itself by the inclusion of the vibrant Chucho Valdes’ number, ‘Mambo For Roy.’ The final cut, the lovely, Hargrove-penned ‘Trust,’ with its blend of precision and power and contrast of moods – delicately lyrical one minute, explosively dynamic the next – represents all that is good about big band music. A scintillating offering from arguably the most exciting instrumentalist in jazz.
(CW) 4/5