Born October 16, 1969, in Waco, TX; son of Roy Allan (a musician and member of the U.S. Air Force) and Velera Hargrove. Education: Attended Berklee School of Music, 1988-90; attended New School for Social Research Jazz and Contemporary Music Program, beginning 1990. Addresses: Record company--Verve Records, Worldwide Plaza, 825 Eighth Avenue, New York, NY 10019.

After recording his highly acclaimed first album at age 20, Roy Hargrove became a charter member of a precocious group of jazz prodigies known as "The Young Lions." Hargrove, along with fellow trumpeters Nicholas Peyton and Marlon Jordan, saxophonists Antonio Hart and Joshua Redman, bassist Christian McBride, and a host of other young players, ignited a global resurgence in the popularity of jazz. Intelligent, well-educated, and articulate, with a strong sense of jazz's rich history, these musicians were signed by major recording labels and supported by the kind of publicity formerly reserved for pop stars.

In an astonishingly brief time, Hargrove arose as one of the most influential artists of this young generation. He developed an extremely personal style that tempered brilliant virtuosity with grace and passion. Tom Masland of Newsweek remarked of Hargrove, "He plays with a sweetness that speaks of a world of hurt." Even early in his career, Hargrove's work showed a sense of order that many players take decades to achieve. As New York Times writer Richard B. Woodward put it, his solos are a "string of sentences that read as paragraphs."

Hargrove was surrounded by music from an early age, but it was his elementary and high school band director, Dean Hill, who sparked his interest in a performing career. Hill not only guided Hargrove's development as an improviser, but introduced him to a variety of great jazz musicians, including David "Fathead" Newman, a legendary sax player who many years later joined Hargrove on his eighth album, Family.

While working with Hill, Hargrove discovered the music of Clifford Brown, a brilliant trumpeter who recorded extensively in the 1950s; he died at age 25. It was Brown's example, Hargrove told Rocky Mountain News writer Norman Provizer, that gave the young trumpeter confidence in his own musical gifts. "That was the key that opened the door for me," he recalled. "There have always been musicians who could play no matter what age they were. If you love it, you will search it out regardless of your age."

Like many jazz musicians of his generation, Hargrove also owed an important debt to trumpeter Wynton Marsalis. After hearing Hargrove perform at Dallas's Arts Magnet High School, Marsalis invited him to sit in with his group at the Caravan of Dreams Performing Arts Center in Fort Worth, Texas. The performance effectively launched Hargrove's career, and though some writers later tried to promote competition between Hargrove and his mentor, the younger musician has demonstrated nothing but respect and admiration for Marsalis. "I really dig Wynton's place in society," he told New York Times contributor Woodward. "He's a tremendously dedicated person." In 1995 Hargrove put all rumors of a feud to rest by inviting Marsalis to join him on his Family album.

Hargrove's debut at the Caravan of Dreams led to extensive tours of the U.S. and Europe. In 1990, after two years at Boston's prestigious Berklee School of Music, he moved to New York City, formed his first quintet, and released his debut album, Diamond in the Rough. This album, and the three succeeding recordings Hargrove made for the Novus label, were among the most commercially successful jazz recordings of the early 1990s, and made the young trumpeter one of the music's hottest properties. Still, unimpressed by stardom, Hargrove continued to develop his craft by performing with jazz giants such as saxophonist Sonny Rollins and trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie.

As Hargrove's talents as a soloist matured, so did his strength as a bandleader. During the early 1990s Hargrove experimented with a variety of personnel, trying to build a tightly focused ensemble. As he told Rocky Mountain News writer Provizer, "No matter how many people you have in a group, you need to think as one." In 1992 he laid the foundation for future groups by hiring bassist Rodney Whitaker and drummer Gregory Hutchinson, who together comprised one of the finest rhythm units in modern jazz. By the release of 1993's Of Kindred Souls, Hargrove's exacting taste and hard work had paid off: in the words of San Francisco Chronicle writer Derk Richardson, he had found "the kind of unified group feeling that has distinguished the most fondly remembered acoustic jazz units, from the Max Roach-Clifford Brown Quintet, through the classic Miles Davis bands of the 1960s."

In 1994 Hargrove made a widely publicized move to Verve Records and released The Roy Hargrove Quintet with the Tenors of Our Time. The concept for the recording was unique: Hargrove's own quintet, featuring sax player Ron Blake and pianist Cyrus Chestnut, in addition to Whitaker and Hutchinson, was joined by some of jazz's greatest tenor sax players, both veterans such as Joe Henderson and Stanley Turrentine, and relative newcomers like Branford Marsalis (Wynton's brother) and Joshua Redman. But unlike other "all-star" jam recordings, the album presented each guest soloist individually, in repertory specially chosen to illustrate his talents. The recording, dubbed "a jazz classic" by Star-Ledger critic George Kanzler, was one of the best-selling jazz albums of 1994.

In June of 1995 Hargrove released his second recording for Verve, Family. As the title suggests, the album paid tribute to the musicians and relatives who played a significant role in the trumpeter's life. Like The Tenors of Our Time, Family featured a variety of guest artists. "Young Lions" such as Christian McBride and sax player Jesse Davis, as well as established figures including pianist John Hicks and drummer Jimmy Cobb once again joined Hargrove's quintet. The result was an exciting and heart-felt look at jazz's past, present, and future.

Family also showcased several of Hargrove's own works. "The Trial" was a dark and intense movement from his extended composition The Love Suite in Mahogany, which had been premiered at New York City's Lincoln Center in September, 1993. The piece featured an imaginative duet for bowed bass and soprano sax. The Latin-tinged "Another Level" placed the innovative solos of Hargrove, Blake, and pianist Stephen Scott against a complex background of shifting rhythmic patterns. And "Trilogy" painted brief portraits of three of Hargrove's family members: the lush, tender "Velera" paid homage to Hargrove's mother; "Roy Allan" evoked the sousaphone playing of Hargrove's father with an infectious, driving bass line; and the looping melody of the blues number "Brian's Bounce" was inspired by Hargrove's energetic brother.

As Hargrove's star continued to ascend, he also dedicated himself to spreading jazz's affirmative message to a new generation of musicians. Following Wynton Marsalis's lead, he began giving workshops for jazz musicians in high schools throughout the U.S. "There is a positive aspect to playing music, and it makes a difference when you can reach young people around the country and tell them about jazz," he told Down Beat columnist June Lehman. "You may inspire a young person to do great things just by having music in their life."

by Jeffrey Taylor

Roy Hargrove's Career

"Discovered" by trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, Dallas, TX, 1986; toured Japan and Europe; formed quintet and released first album, Diamond in the Rough, Novus, 1990; appeared with saxophonist Sonny Rollins at Carnegie Hall concert, New York City, 1991; premiered first extended composition, The Love Suite in Mahogany, Lincoln Center, New York City, 1993; participated in Verve Records 50th anniversary celebration, Carnegie Hall, 1994; offered series of master classes and clinics in the New York City public schools, 1994.

Roy Hargrove's Awards

Down Beat Student Music Award, 1988; first place, 1992 Jazz Times Readers' Poll; voted "Talent Deserving Wider Recognition" in Down Beat's 1993 Critics' Poll.

Famous Works

Further Reading


Visitor Comments Add a comment…

over 15 years ago

I had a recent conversation with a person who claims that Mr. Hargrove is hooked on drugs, heiron is this true