That trumpeter Roy Hargrove has come a long way quickly since his debut a few short years ago is obvious from listening to his albums.
And while the results are not groundbreaking as yet, they were more than enough to charm and rouse a somewhat genteel audience at Ambassador Auditorium.
Hargrove came up to the majors with a handle as just another in the large pack of neo-bopping Wynton Marsalis clones. But unlike many of the others, he grew as a player, becoming progressively more expressive and assured. His first album for Verve (and fifth overall), “With the Tenors of Our Time,” displays further growth in league with some starry tenor names.
From his first solo, Hargrove displayed a head for structure as well as heart , swinging with impeccably good time at the outset and building to a fine, higher-register climax.
On ballads like Johnny Griffin’s “When We Were One” and the Herbie Hancock-influenced “Once Forgotten,” Hargrove can be verbose but only just a bit; he has a nice feeling for the mellow subtleties of the flugelhorn. Unexpectedly, toward the end of the gig, he also sang “September in the Rain” in a high and rather charming voice.
Not only that, Hargrove has got a band, a real band, one that has developed a road-tested rapport and some versatility within the confines of the conservative mainstream.
Tenor saxman Ron Blake has become quite a showman, building from a dusky spare tone to down-and-gritty R&B or sheets of notes in a single solo. Pianist Peter Martin was fluidly inventive all night and bassist Rodney Whitaker and drummer Gregory Hutchinson sounded tight and together.