July 1997 Roy Hargrove’s Travels Lead To Habana

Roy Hargrove’s Travels Lead To Habana

Trumpeter Roy Hargrove, already in the vanguard of young musicians, explores the Afro-Cuban jazz tradition on his latest album Habana. Recorded in Orvieto, Italy in January 1997, Habana is an exciting update of the Afro-Cuban jazz sound. Hargrove is the latest in the line of trumpeters seduced by Afro-Cuban music and rhythms leading back through, among others, Kenny Dorham to the man who introduced Afro-Cuban music to American jazz, Dizzy Gillespie.

Accompanying Hargrove on this labor of love is an impressive cast of American, Cuban and Puerto Rican musicians. In addition to the leader, there’s Gary Bartz, Frank Lacy and Russell Malone from the States, from Puerto Rico, David Sanchez and John Benitez and from Havana, Cuban legends Chucho Valdes and Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez.

Hargrove, steeped in the trumpet tradition was, of course, well acquainted with the Cuba-jazz relationship that long preceded him. He knew all about Dizzy’s historic collaborations with Chano Pozo, trumpeter Mario Bauza and band leader Machito. But because of the political and social issues that complicate free exchange between Americans and Cubans in all walks of life, Hargrove had never been to the island nation.

All of that changed last year, when one of the primary living exponents of Afro-Cuban jazz, Chucho Valdes, invited Roy’s band to participate in the 16th annual Havana Jazz Festival, of which, Valdes is artistic director. Hargrove accepted the invitation and spent eleven days in Havana, absorbing the culture, the sights and especially the sounds.

Indeed, his very first night there, he sat in with the groundbreaking Cuban group Los Van Van. From there the word about the young American got out and the rest of his stay was a whirlwind of sitting in, sharing musical ideas and dazzling the locals while being dazzled in return. He forged a strong connection with Cuban music and the musicians.

“Just playing with those cats made me realize that every note has to be played like it’s your last one,” declares Hargrove. “The musicians are so incredible, so dedicated. It opened my eyes and made me understand what it was like to really play. You can’t be a mediocre musician there. You have to be excellent. It was an education.”

Later in the year, further collaborations took place in New York and Europe with equally incendiary results. Naturally, recording with these fabulous musicians became a priority.

Before the year was out, the stage was set in Italy. The performances on Habana were taped during a week-long residency at the Umbria Jazz Festival’s winter edition in Orvieto. For a week and a half, Hargrove and his band played and rehearsed in the historic Italian halls of the opera house Teatro Mancinelli and the Palazzo di Sette, a 13th century palace converted to a performance space. They played each day and night to increasingly enthusiastic audiences.

Hargrove’s commitment to this music includes a summer jazz festival tour with the basically the same unit under the name Roy Hargrove’s Crisol. The translation of the Spanish word crisol is crucible or melting pot. This melting pot is smoking. Watch for them.

The young trumpeter’s talents will continue to take him all over the world in the coming decades. But none are likely to affect him- or be affected by him- as deeply and powerfully as Habana.


Other Roy Hargrove Resources on the Internet… Jazz Central Station”