REVIEW: Roy Hargrove Quintet at Ronnie Scott's (EFG London Jazz Festival)

Roy Hargrove Quintet
(Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club. 22nd November 2014, EFG London Jazz Festival. Review by Michael Underwood)

Roy Hargrove’s smart-suited quintet took to the stage at Ronnie Scotts to deliver an extremely enjoyable and witty performance, full of quality, finesse and humour, executed by five musicians at the top of their game.The band has an impressive intuitiveness, all are sensitive to Hargrove’s every move.

Saxophonist Justin Robinson delivered highly energetic and harmonically intriguing solos full of cleverly manipulated bop language, his relentless energy perhaps sometimes too much  in contrast to Hargrove’s more laid back approach.

Impressive pianist Sullivan Fortner always seemed to be on hand to offer a breath of fresh air after burning sax solos. Early in the set on a latin tune, his intricate contrapuntal lines combined perfectly with his ability to create thoughtful, intriguing and relatable solos. Later in the set a version of Strasbourg St Denis opened out into an unaccompanied piano solo where Fortner went to town, veering away from the tune with complex ideas. A bluesy shuffle number then further demonstrated his amazing stylistic flexibility and range.

Bassist Ameen Saleem shone in two ballad-like tunes, when his reflective soloing had a great use of space, and exceptional placement of notes.

Elegant brushwork from drummer Quincy Phillips gave Hargrove the opportunity to blo w a quirky solo whilst retaining a sense of continuity. Considering the detailed and engaging ballad work that the band had set up, I found Robinson’s solo to be slightly overpowering, blowing the bands excellent dynamic control out of the water.

A highlight of the gig was Hargrove taking to the mic to sing the jazz standard, Never Let Me Go, with a remarkably beautiful tone. A real storyteller, Hargrove’s rendition was perfectly complemented by the band. This tune segued into a rock groove on top of which a comically crafted version of Earth, Wind and Fire’s Fantasy was played. What a nice surprise!

All in all, this gig had something for everyone. Moving effortlessly from style to style and groove to groove, there is an exciting freshness about this group, moving forward whilst playing music harking back to bygone decades.

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