The purity of tone that emerges from the trumpet of Roy Hargrove found its metaphorical match in the all-white outfit donned by the young band-leader. His band mates, performing under his aegis for years, pay equal attention to intonation and resonant depth in their playing, which translates into a rewarding 80 minutes of varied strains of jazz.
Hargrove’s latest disc, “Moment to Moment” (Verve), is an all-ballads affair with strings that keeps his fiery quartet obscured by an arresting sonic scrim. From it he played one tune — Jimmy Dorsey’s “I’m Glad There Is You” — that demonstrated his flawless control on the flugelhorn and the ease with which the band can take over a ballad. It’s a considerable stretch from the rest of the evening’s program.
Night two of his stay at L.A.’s Catalina Bar & Grill opened with Frank Lacy’s “Stranded,” a number that Hargrove and alto saxophonist Sherman Irby took on at a furious pace with wild yet precise improvisations. He followed with his own “Style” and again the front line ripped through the changes with penetrating abandon.
But in both instances, the marvelously articulate pianist Larry Willis altered the course and slowed the ship; his interpretations were a fall evening in New England to the horn player’s hot August sand in Malibu. The perfs turned the compositions into collages of sound rather than predictable embellishments on a theme, a fact embellished by the robust bass playing of Gerald Cannon and the drummer Willie Jones III.
Hargrove has spread his wings well with his last two projects — a “with strings” album that harkens back to the mid-’50s experiment of the great Clifford Brown, and the Cuba-inspired “Habana” from 1997 — and his recent appearance on the new album from the rapper Common.
He was among the young lions of the 1980s who were handed the baton regardless of whether they were ready to command the stage; in the last six years, he has emerged as not a contender but a definite champ as well.