The often brilliant young trumpeter Roy Hargrove came a cropper with his latest album, Moment to Moment (Verve)--a syrupy, strings-laden ballads collection that could put coffee to sleep. I can see why the project might have appealed to him: jazzmen have used orchestral backdrops to flatter their arioso playing ever since Charlie Parker legitimized the practice on his "With Strings" dates of 1949 and '50, and Hargrove ranks among the most straightforward melodists of the post-Wynton generation, with a style that recaptures the lyrical heart of the 60s mainstream. But while Parker stuck to ballads, he didn't always stick to relaxed ballad tempos; Hargrove does, and this decision, along with the simplistic, uninspired arrangements, robs the album of the tremendous energy he can generate. In a more felicitous setting, his solos propel themselves as much with their rapidly unfolding melodies as with their rhythmic fillips, which has earned Hargrove comparisons to such past giants as Lee Morgan and Freddie Hubbard. Fortunately, since it costs a bundle to travel with a 16-piece string section, he'll appear here with nothing more than his sparkling quintet--which has me looking forward to the sort of hearty, summit-scaling performance he's given nearly every other time I've heard him play. The band includes young veteran Sherman Irby, a swaggering, fiery altoist; bassist Gerald Cannon and drummer Willie Jones III, each with enough technique to hijack a set but the good sense not to try; and encyclopedic pianist Larry Willis, whose credits range from Stan Getz to Cannonball Adderley to Blood, Sweat & Tears--and who effortlessly provides the kind of layered, imaginative accompaniment Hargrove loves to play against. Tuesday through Thursday, November 21 through 23, 8 and 10 PM, Friday and Saturday, November 24 and 25, 9 and 11 PM, and Sunday, November 26, 4, 8, and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand; 312-670-2473.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Michael Jackson.