Roy Hargrove

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Roy Hargrove
Hargrove in 2018
Hargrove in 2018
Background information
Birth nameRoy Anthony Hargrove
Born(1969-10-16)October 16, 1969
Waco, Texas, U.S.
DiedNovember 2, 2018(2018-11-02) (aged 49)
New York City, U.S.
GenresJazz, Latin jazz, M-Base, soul
Occupation(s)Musician, band leader, composer
Instrument(s)Trumpet, flugelhorn, vocals
Years active1987–2018
Formerly of
  • The Roy Hargrove Quintet
  • The Roy Hargrove Big Band
  • Roy Hargrove’s Crisol
  • The Jazz Futures
  • The Jazz Networks
  • The RH Factor
  • Buckshot LeFonque
  • Soulquarians

Roy Anthony Hargrove (October 16, 1969 – November 2, 2018) was an American jazz musician and composer whose principal instruments were the trumpet and flugelhorn. He achieved worldwide acclaim after winning two Grammy Awards for differing styles of jazz in 1998 and 2002. Hargrove primarily played in the hard bop style for the majority of his albums, but also had a penchant for genre-crossing exploration and collaboration with a variety of hip hop, soul, R&B and alternative rock artists.[1] As Hargrove told one reporter, "I've been around all kinds of musicians, and if a cat can play, a cat can play. If it's gospel, funk, R&B, jazz or hip-hop, if it's something that gets in your ear and it's good, that's what matters."[2]


Hargrove was born in Waco, Texas, to Roy Allan Hargrove and Jacklyn Hargrove.[3][4][5] When he was 9, his family moved to Dallas, Texas.[4] He took lessons at school initially on cornet before turning to trumpet. One of Hargrove's most profound early influences was a visit to his junior high school by saxophonist David "Fathead" Newman, who performed as a sideman in Ray Charles's Band.[6] Hargrove's junior high music teacher, Dean Hill, whom Hargrove called his “musical father,” taught him to improvise and solo.[7] He was discovered by Wynton Marsalis when Marsalis visited the Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Dallas. Hargrove credited trumpeter Freddie Hubbard as having the greatest influence on his sound.[8]

Hargrove spent a year (1988–1989) studying at Boston's Berklee College of Music but could more often be found playing in New York City jam sessions; he eventually transferred to the New School in New York.[9] His first studio recording there was with saxophonist Bobby Watson for Watson's album No Question About It. Shortly thereafter, Hargrove recorded with the band Superblue featuring Watson, Mulgrew Miller, Frank Lacy, Don Sickler and Kenny Washington.[10]

In 1990, Hargrove released his debut solo album, Diamond in the Rough, on the Novus/RCA label.[11] This album, and the three succeeding recordings Hargrove made for Novus with his quintet, were among the most commercially successful jazz recordings of the early 1990s and made him one of jazz's in-demand players.[12]

As a side project to his solo and quintet recordings, Hargrove also was the leader of The Jazz Networks, an ensemble of American and Japanese musicians which released 5 albums between 1992 and 1996 and featured other notable jazz artists, including Antonio Hart, Rodney Whitaker and Joshua Redman.[13] (These albums were originally released only in Japan and Europe, but after Hargrove's death, his estate arranged for release on streaming platforms in the U.S.)[14]

Hargrove topped the category "Rising Star–Trumpet" in the DownBeat Critics Poll in 1991, 1992 and 1993.[15] During this time in his early career, Hargrove was known as one of the “Young Lions,” a group of rising jazz musicians — including, among others, Marcus Roberts, Mark Whitfield and Christian McBride — who, embracing the foundations of jazz, played principally bebop, hard bop and the Great American Songbook standards.[16] Hargrove, along with other of the "Young Lions," formed an all-star band in 1991 called The Jazz Futures, which released one critically acclaimed album Live in Concert before going their separate ways.[17]

In 1993, Jazz at Lincoln Center commissioned Hargrove to compose an original jazz suite, and he premiered The Love Suite: In Mahogany at Lincoln Center with his sextet that year.[18]

In 1994, Hargrove signed with Verve and recorded With the Tenors of Our Time featuring Joe Henderson, Stanley Turrentine, Johnny Griffin, Joshua Redman, and Branford Marsalis.[19] Also that year, Hargrove appeared on the eponymous debut album of Buckshot LeFonque, a jazz-funk band led by Branford Marsalis.

In 1995, Hargrove released his next album, Family, and experimented with a trio format that same year on Parker's Mood, an album recorded with bassist Christian McBride and pianist Stephen Scott.[20][21] The Penguin Jazz Guide identifies Parker's Mood as one of the “1001 Best Albums” in the history of the genre.[22]

Also in 1995, Hargrove formed the Roy Hargrove Big Band to perform at the Panasonic Jazz Festival in New York. The band would go on to perform worldwide and feature big band arrangements of Hargrove's own compositions as well as his favorite songs by respected contemporaries.[23]

In 1998, Hargrove won the Grammy Award for Best Latin Jazz Album for Habana with Roy Hargrove's Crisol, an ensemble of Cuban and American musicians which included Chucho Valdés, Russell Malone, Frank Lacy and Miguel "Anga" Diaz, among others.[5] He won his second Grammy for Best Jazz Instrumental Album in 2002 for Directions in Music: Live at Massey Hall with co-leaders Herbie Hancock and Michael Brecker. Hargrove was nominated for four other Grammy Awards during his career.[24]

During the late 1990s and early 2000s, Hargrove was also a member of the Soulquarians, a collective of experimental jazz, hip hop and soul artists that included Questlove, D’Angelo, Common and others.[25] In 2000, Hargrove added jazz and funk-influenced horns in support of D'Angelo on his Grammy-winning album Voodoo.[26] He also supported D'Angelo on tour that year as a member of the Soultronics, a backing "supergroup" featuring Questlove and Pino Palladino, among others.

Also in 2000, Hargrove performed the music of Louis Armstrong in Roz Nixon's musical production "Dedicated To Louis Armstrong" as part of the Verizon Jazz Festival.

In 2002, Hargrove collaborated with D'Angelo, Macy Gray, the Soultronics, and Nile Rodgers, on two tracks for Red Hot & Riot, a compilation album in tribute to the music of afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti. He also acted as sideman for jazz pianist Shirley Horn and spoken-word artist Common on the album Like Water for Chocolate and with singer Erykah Badu on Worldwide Underground.[27]

From 2003 to 2006, he released three albums as the leader of Roy Hargrove's The RH Factor, a group that blended jazz, soul, hip hop and funk idioms.[28] The band's debut album, Hard Groove, was hailed as "genre-busting" by critics and ushered in a new era of hip hop-accented jazz. The band's second album, "Strength," was nominated for a Grammy Award for "Best Contemporary Jazz Album."[29]

After signing with Universal/EmArcy in 2008, Hargrove released "Earfood," a quintet recording "steeped in tradition and sophistication," which Jazziz selected as one of the 5 “essential albums” of that year.[30] He followed in 2009 with "Emergence," an album recorded with the Roy Hargrove Big Band; he received a Grammy nomination for "Best Improvised Jazz Solo" for his performance on the track "Ms. Garvey, Ms. Garvey" on that record.[31] In 2010, Hargrove released "Live at the New Morning," a DVD of an intimate club performance with his quintet in Paris.[32] Thereafter, until his death in 2018, Hargrove toured extensively and appeared as a sideman on recordings by Jimmy Cobb, Roy Haynes, Cyrille Aimée, The 1975, D’Angelo, Kandace Springs and others.[33]

Hargrove topped the trumpet category in the 2019 DownBeat Readers’ Poll.[34]

In addition to the accolades he garnered on trumpet, music critics also praised Hargrove's tone on flugelhorn and gifted ways with a ballad. As the Chicago Tribune observed in 2010, "it's Hargrove's ballad playing that tends to win hearts, which is what happened every time he picked up his flugelhorn. We've been hearing Hargrove spin silk on this instrument for a couple of decades now, yet one still marvels at the poetry of his tone, the incredible slowness of his vibrato and the arching lyricism of his phrases."[35][36][37]

Over his 30-year career, Hargrove composed and recorded several original compositions, one of which, "Strasbourg-St. Denis", has been characterized as reaching the status of a jazz standard.[38][39][40]

In July 2021, Hargrove's estate released posthumously via Resonance Records the double-album In Harmony, a live duet recording made in 2006 and 2007 with pianist Mulgrew Miller that returned Hargrove to the Top 5 of the Billboard jazz chart.[41] Slate selected In Harmony as one of the best jazz albums of 2021.[42] The Académie du Jazz awarded In Harmony its prize for "Best Reissue or Best Unpublished" album of 2021.[43]

Hargrove was posthumously elected to the DownBeat Magazine "Jazz Hall of Fame" in November 2021.[44]

In June 2022, the documentary Hargrove, filmed during the final year of his life, debuted at the Tribeca Festival.[45] Hargrove's estate issued a statement objecting to the film as not what he had envisioned when agreeing to participate.[46]

Celebrating the 30th anniversary of its performance, in October 2023, Jazz at Lincoln Center released a live recording of Hargrove's original composition "The Love Suite: In Mahogany," a five-movement piece which he did not play again live after that debut performance.[47] Jazziz Magazine called the album an "unearthed gem" that "showcases the much-missed trumpeter’s virtuosity and soulful songwriting ...."[48] Jazz critic Nate Chinen of NPR applauded the album as "a flat-out marvel — maybe the most vivid example we have of Roy's ability to marshal hard-bop fire in a new form, steeped in swinging tradition but sparking and crackling right now."[49]

Personal life and death[edit]

A quiet and retiring person in life, Hargrove struggled with kidney failure.[50] He died at the age of 49 of cardiac arrest brought on by kidney disease on November 2, 2018, while hospitalized in New Jersey. According to his long-time manager, Larry Clothier, Hargrove had been on dialysis for the last 14 years of his life.[4] He is survived by his wife, Aida Brandes-Hargrove, and daughter, Kamala Hargrove, who in 2020 launched the company Roy Hargrove Legacy LLC to preserve and extend his legacy.[51] In 2022, Roy Hargrove Legacy re-launched the Roy Hargrove Big Band, which gives live performances featuring original band members and other musicians who supported Hargrove in his various ensembles.[52]


As leader/co-leader[edit]

Posthumous release

  • In Harmony with Mulgrew Miller (Resonance, 2021) – recorded in 2006-07
  • The Love Suite: In Mahogany (Blue Engine Records, 2023) - recorded in 1993

As member[edit]


  • 1988: Superblue (Somethin' Else [JP]; Blue Note, 1988)

Manhattan Projects
With Carl Allen, Donald Brown, Ira Coleman and Kenny Garrett

  • 1989: Dreamboat (Timeless, 1990)
  • 1989: Piccadilly Square (Timeless, 1993)

Jazz Futures
With Antonio Hart, Benny Green, Carl Allen, Christian McBride, Mark Whitfield, Marlon Jordan, Tim Warfield

  • 1991: Live in Concert (Novus [US], 1993)

The Jazz Networks

  • 1991: Straight to the Standards (Novus J/BMG Japan, 1992)
  • 1992: Beauty and the Beast (Novus [US]; Novus J/BMG Japan, 1993)
  • 1993: Blues 'n Ballads (Novus J/BMG Japan, 1994)
  • 1993–94: The Other Day (Novus J/BMG Japan, 1996)
  • 1994: In the Movies (Novus J/BMG Japan, 1995)

Buckshot LeFonque

  • 1994 Buckshot LeFonque (Columbia 1994)

As sideman[edit]


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  2. ^ Roy Hargrove: Award-Winning Trumpeter Once Dubbed The Hottest Jazz Player in the World”, November 14, 2018. Retrieved January 30, 2022.
  3. ^ "Riffs on Roy". 30 April 1996. Retrieved November 5, 2018.
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  52. ^ "[1]", February 2022. Retrieved March 10, 2023.

External links[edit]