Roy Hargrove & The RH Factor – Strength EP

Roy Hargrove & The RH Factor
Strength EP

(Verve – 2004)

On May 20, 2003, premiere jazz trumpeter Roy Hargrove and his collective the RH Factor released the groundbreaking neo-soul/jazz fusion recording Hard Groove. Featuring an all-star roster of neo-soulsters (Erykah Badu, D’Angelo, Stephanie McKay), boho rappers (Q-Tip, Common), jazzbos (Marc Cary), jamband icon Karl Denson and Philly’s famed Soulaquarians posse (James Poyser, Pino Palladino), the critically-acclaimed 14-track album was not only embraced by Hargrove’s core fan base, it garnered the artist props with the underground club massive from Brooklyn to Berlin.

16 months, one SRO North America to UK to Europe festival/club tour and 100,000 (and counting) units sold later, Hargrove and the RH Factor are set to release Hard Groove’s six-track sequel the Strength EP on September 28, 2004. Though the tracks are previously unreleased, to call them “new” would be a tad disingenuous.

“When we did the Hard Groove sessions, we ended up with 25 tunes”, says Hargrove manager/executive producer Larry Clothier. “We wanted to make a two-CD set, but it wasn’t commercially feasible.” Those tracks might very well have forever remained ‘lost’ if not for the fortuitous intervention of Verve France. “The record is still very hot in France,” adds Clothier. “The French office said, ‘We’d like to do five or six tunes for release over here.’ I agreed.”

Although the project was greenlighted by Verve President/CEO Ron Goldstein, the selection was done by committee. “It was a group decision — Roy, Larry, Ron, Dahlia Ambach-Caplin (A&R; Verve Remixed albums) and myself”, says Hard Groove engineer/mixer Russell “The Dragon” Elevado. “It was decided that we use the more “up tempo” and “funky” sort of songs for the EP; the tracks where the musicians’ performances were undeniable.”

The Breakdown: “Rich Man’s Welfare”: a fiery pastiche of Fela Kuti Afro-beat, Manu Dibango Makossa and Hugh Masekela Zulu jive. “Bop Drop”: hyperspeeding King Curtis-Jimmy Smith juiced jazz funk. “Strength”: breezy R&B-jazzed hip hop. “Listen Here”: Les McCann/Eddie Harris meets the Headhunters at Jr. Walker’s crib. Brian Bacchus Soulfeast remixes “For Fun” and “Universe”: the former a hand ‘n booty-clapping remix of Hard Groove’s “Common Free Style” featuring the voices of UK soul god Omar, Grammy-winning songwriter Gordon Chambers and Vivien Goldman; the latter a Roy Ayers-inspired ‘conscious’ soul-jazz groover featuring Roy Hargrove on lead vox.

Compared to RH Factor’s Hard Groove, the Strength EP is, to quote the title of a Sly & Robbie song, “Same Thing But Different.” “It stands on its own as a six-track EP”, agrees Ambach-Caplin. “It’s for the fans that have bought the original record and for the fans who will see the band in the future.” Rewind Selector!