A Tale of Two Roys

By Mark A. Moore, Senior Executive Smooth Jazz Entertainment LLC.

Hello everyone!  My sincerest apologizes for taking this long to get a new entry in.  Our New Year’s Eve show has been all consuming this month, and I have been everywhere and nowhere at once!  (If you are in town, please check us out at Red Kiva nightclub!  Black Slang featuring Corey Wilkes is going to bring down the house! Please see www.smoothjazzentertainment.net for more details!)  But that doesn’t mean I didn’t have anything to talk about.  Finding the time to write these thoughts has been the challenge.  I’ll do better.  I promise!

On December 9th, I had the privilege to listen to none other than the incomparable Roy Haynes with arguably one of the most important trumpeters of his time, Roy Hargrove.  This concert took place at the beautiful Chicago Symphony Orchestra.    Acoustically impressive, well lit, and visually stunning, the CSO is something to behold.  However, in my opinion, it is not the ideal place to experience live jazz.  I know I was really, really far from the stage (near the last row on the balcony).  But at no time was there a great sense of intimacy.  At times, I felt a little disconnected. Jazz is meant to grab you.  Yet, it felt a bit contrived in those surroundings.

The opening set began with a beautifully simple, yet insightfully percussive solo by none other than Roy Haynes.  This was a great example of how you can make a powerful impact without pounding the toms, denting the crash cymbals, or kicking a hole through the bass drum. Mr. Haynes was able to implement melodic rhythms that played to your senses and piqued your curiosity.  He effortlessly toyed with soft staccatos, forceful rim shots, rippling snares all played with remarkable control.    The perennial showman, Roy Haynes, charmed the audience with his tap dancing prowess on stage.  It was a memorable performance.

Roy Hargrove was equally up to task.  When you witness his genius, you have to marvel at his incredible pitch, tone and remarkable endurance when he plays.  It almost seems illogical that someone can string together so many notes and melodies in very long sequences. He can also play with such great speed and syncopation; dizzying, and roaring.  When I listen to an artist of his caliber, I often wonder where these melodies live within their subconscious.  They are like living, evolving entities, summoned from the creative recesses of the mind.  It is no wonder that Roy Hargrove is considered one of the most important trumpeters of the last two decades.

Jaleel Shaw proved to be an outstanding alto and soprano saxophonist, capable of bending notes with blazing speed and precision. At times, I marveled at the shrill and piercing pitch he brought forth from the instrument.  I look forward to hearing him again.  His performance was really impressive.  Pianist Martin Bejerano was no slouch as well.  His jagged precision managed to change direction and time, leaving you mystified during his solos. Dynamic and engaging, he truly held court with his keys.  And finally, bassist David Wong brought forth strong, but not inspiring musical tomes.  He played with great control but was not as raging or as sweeping as his band mates.