Roy Hargrove's RH Factor


When he formed the RH Factor, Roy Hargrove's goal was to "create a world in which listeners and creators from all genres can participate - I've always felt that music should not only sound good, but feel good as well."

Mission accomplished. A week since attending, I still feel good when I think about the show that the RH Factor put on in the tent at Nathan Phillips Square.

From the time he made his debut on "Diamond in the Rough" (1989), there has been a feeling in the jazz world that Hargrove is "the one". Discovered while he was still in high school by Wynton Marsalis (an early incarnation of "the one") Hargrove seemed to have an immediate connection to the music of the past. A connection that he still possesses and brings to recordings and to concert halls the world over (most recently with Herbie Hancock and co. on the "Directions in Music" tour).

I've been fortunate enough to have seen Hargrove play in Toronto on at least seven or eight occasions, in various settings...with a quartet at Top o' the Senator, with Hancock at Massie Hall and with his "funk" band, the RH Factor. I can say without hesitation that Roy Hargrove is one of the most gifted, prolific and innovative jazz artists of his generation.

The RH Factor project has been criticized by card carrying members of the "jazz police" for, of course, not being "jazz". Whatever that means. When I listen to Hargrove play in this context I hear traces of Donald Byrd, I hear Miles, I hear jazz that has new ideas and is at the same time respectful of the music's past. When I see this band perform live I am inspired not only by what I hear, but by what a see - a wonderfully diverse and enthusiastic audience.

The show last Tuesday night felt not unlike what I imagine a Southern revival might feel like. In fact, the solo that Hargrove took towards the end of his version of Funkadelic's "I'll Stay" had the flavour and intensity of someone preaching or speaking in tongues. It was exhilarating and exhausting at the same time! I felt completely surrounded and immersed in the music, the sound, the texture and by the energy of the crowd. The whole atmosphere just sort of poured over you.

The whole band joined in Hargrove's theatrics, dancing, playing off of each other, teasing the eager crowd with false endings and encore after encore (this could have been a Prince concert). It was clear that the band, Hargrove in particular, were having a blast.

I can't help but feel that the growing trend of great jazz musicians making "funk" albums is a good thing (Joshua Redman's Elastic Band being another example). This can only mean good things for the genre, to push it in new and different directions, exposing new and different people to the music of the past and making some great, fun, listenable music for the future.

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