In my review of the Northsea Jazz Festival 2015, I wrote about Roy Hargrove’s performance: “A fitting finale for me was the hot and cool, the fast and the furious Roy Hargrove Quintet mastering everything from hardbop grittiness to some preppy Golson/Farmer stuff and grooving, loping attacks. I still hope that he is not planning on expanding his vocal abilities.” He was a regular guest at the festival and always worth checking out. The first album I bought was the 1991 LP “Public Eye” which was actually his second one after his debut “Diamond In The Rough”. At 21, he already had a rich and exuberant sound; that of an experienced musician and artist. Sometimes Clifford Brown, sometimes Art Farmer, Roy also had the ability of writing his own tunes. On the title track to “Public Eye”, there already was the aforementioned fast and furious playing. Elsewhere, he could be pretty melancholy.
What I liked most about his playing and his output though was his versatility, his universalism. I still cherish his hip hop meets jazz stuff with the RH Factor where he used artists like Me’Shell NdégeOcello, Erykah Badu, Common, Stephanie McKay, Renee Neufville, or Bernard Wright to create an immensely powerful soul groove on pieces like “How I Know”. But there was also the lushness and tenderness of his strings-laden “Moment To Moment” album or the witty and sometimes crazy hardbop/bebop stuff he recorded at Massey Hall with Herbie Hancock and Michael Brecker. Roy died last Friday two weeks after his 49th birthday after kidney complications. He will certainly live forever in the “public eye”.