June 19, 2011

New Dog, Old Tricks

I just enjoyed an evening of mellow jazz at the San Francisco Jazz Festival with the duo of Roy Hargrove and Cedar Walton. Trumpeter Hargrove, 41, has experimented with a lot of different sounds during his career, including funk and hip hop, but tonight he sounded like the traditionalist. On both trumpet and flugelhorn, he generally stuck to a quiet but incredibly warm sound and the set of quiet jazz tunes. He stands still when he plays, legs slightly apart, mostly leaning back when he blows. But the tone that he generated has a classic grace to it - very appealing to the ear. He ought to consider more singing as well - his whispery solo turn on "Never Let Me Go" was riveting.

Walton, 77, also has a quiet manner while addressing the piano, but he was up to his old tricks. He played with the famous Benny Golson-Art Farmer Jazztet in the late 1950s before moving on to The Jazz Messengers in the 1960s. A hard bop pianist, he's always had an angular approach to both harmony and rhythm. He's still got it as evidenced tonight, but he holds it all together with his own sense of the blues.

A piano-trumpet duo is certainly an uncommon jazz grouping, but these two jazz greats made some wonderful music together.

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