Saturday, September 16, 2006

Roy Hargrove - Habana

"First there's the beat -- insistent, thumping like a heart. The sound of a conga is soon joined by timbales, and a guitar lays down an eight-note vamp, echoed by the horn section. As the musicians chant the title of the opening track, "Oh-Mi Seh Yeh", the song builds into a mesmerizing anthem, delivering the subtle but certain message that trumpeter Roy Hargrove's "Habana" is not a typical Latin jazz project."(-- Andrew Gilbert June 12, 1997)
A few years ago I went to see Herbie Hancock perform his "Directions In Music". A few songs into the set out walked a young jazz man to perform a trumpet solo. At the end of that solo I realized that I must get everything that this man has recorded. The man was Roy Hargrove and he had already amassed quite a body of work. This is one of my personal favorites, "Habana".

In 1996, Roy's band appeared in La Habana's Jazz Festival, where they met pianist Chucho Valdes, of Irakere fame. Roy became fascinated with the talents of Cuban musicians, and decided to form a group featuring both Cuban percussionists and African-American Jazz players. The group, known as Crisol (Spanish for melting pot), recorded live at the Orvieto (Italy) Jazz Festival, and the resulting CD, Habana, appeared in the market in 1997 with an imposing success.
ROY HARGROVE: It was like an evolutionary process. It came about as a result of me working in the Havana Jazz Festival in '96. Chucho Valdes, the pianist, world renowned Cuban jazz pianist, invited me and my quintet to come to the festival. When I went there the first year, I remember just being amazed by the high level of virtuosity out of the musicians that I heard in Havana, some of the local groups and some of the bands that Chucho was in, mainly like Irakere, and the top group at that time, which was Los Van Van. This is before the big media splash with Cuba and everything. When I worked with these musicians, we did some experimental recording down there and sort of formed a band with a Cuban rhythm section with some guys from Puerto Rico, David Sanchez and John Benitez and the front line of New York based guys and we went to a festival in Italy for a week and played and on the seventh day, we set up in the theater and made the album.(

"Roy Hargrove's talents will naturally take him many places in the coming decades. None are likely to affect him - or be affected by him- as deeply and powerfully as Habana."
Oh -Mi Seh Yeh


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