This was originally written right after Roy Hargrove’s passing. I needed some separation from the time of writing until now.
Woke up this morning with my mind staid on Jesus but wasn’t about to go to church while fending off the vestiges of some cold/sinus/whatever this thing is I have going on. So I’m home, in the bed writing those inconsistent morning pages and I started thinking about the foolery that is my life as I currently live it. I generally do this life assessment thing when something jarring happens. The jarring this time was the untimely death of the trumpet great Roy Hargrove. This brother just turned 49 and now he’s gone.
I didn’t write when Prince passed. Though I loved him the majority of my life, there was nothing to say, too much grief, too many well known, highly talented, music writers and cultural critics filled that space. Besides, I’m just a fan. The same holds true in this instance as well but something mundane happened this morning that put my thoughts about Hargrove and life in perspective. I broke a bowl into a million pieces.
Hargrove’s death is personal. When I discovered his music, all I lived, breathed and spent money on was jazz. This was the early nineties. I heard everything, I knew what was hot, I was down for sure but my genre of choice was jazz and as far as I was concerned, Hargrove was the hottest with his cool. What I loved about him was that he wasn’t trying to blow up the trumpet, the mic or my ears. His tone, his phrasing, his technical aptitude, his respect for the artform was all I heard and it was beautiful. The brother was a hard bopper, a balladeer, a funkateer, soulful and hip-hop. He did it all. He was the soundtrack for my life, his music felt good.
Whenever he dropped something I was on it. When he dropped Habana? It was over. People often talk about seminal recordings, landmarks what have you, Habana was it for me. As I write this I hear the opening cut O My Seh Yeh clearly. I felt the music, I felt him, the musicians, Cuba and the continent of Africa. This was soul music, for real. And I’m thankful for having experienced it.
I listened to it all, his quintet, fronting a big band, the Soulquarians, absolutely bumpin’, always stellar. I kept Hargrove on my hotlist of artists to see. I saw many that he collaborated with from Herbie Hancock to Erykah Badu, but I never saw him. When I heard he was gone I literally clutched my heart, it was broken. As I read about his death I learned that he was broken, fragile. He had kidney disease, was on dialysis for years. He had some ups and downs, but he was still playing, still recording, still working though he was clearly ill.
Maybe that’s what I’ve gotten from his life, his work. He didn’t have it all together anymore. He was fragile, yet he continued to keep it moving. He continued to inspire and mentor, he continued to do the work that he loved regardless of his fragility. So I say, thank you Brother Hargrove for sharing your art with us. May your trumpet sound all the more beautiful in eternity.