You know the cats back in the days always used to sport a cool lid? Lid, you know cap, hat or something sharp to keep your head warm on a cool night? Well, if you took a peek around Catalina Bar and Grill before show time, you would have seen him lurking around behind the audience as cool as ever, Roy Hargrove. Sporting a suit and a new cut to go along with one more year on the planet, Roy Hargrove packed the house for his 35th birthday performance at Catalina Bar and Grill. I arrived early and the only available seats were in the back of the room. That did not matter one bit because Roy and his Quintet of burners were hitting so hard you could hear them jamming on Sunset Blvd.
I have seen Roy just about every time he has been to LA for about the last 6 years. I remember one night Willie Jones walked into the old Catalina Bar and Grill. He told me he was going to audition for the band and he had this look in his eye like he knew the gig was his. He was right! Roy told me that he loves the way that Willie plays and composes music. Roy drives his band at full speed and it is as thrilling as a Jon Woo film. Willie is one of the fastest ticking watches on the scene. The boy can get down with blazing speed and is the driving force behind the fire of Roy’s trumpet.
This quintet consists of Ronnie Matthews on piano, Danton Boller on bass, Willie Jones III of course on drums, and Justin Robinson on alto. Danton is an old friend as well. It is great when you get to go to a performance and see all of you peeps locking down the rhythm! Danton is an outstanding bass player. Tonight he is killin’ and working the neck of his bass to the nth degree! He and Willie are always fully supported by their respective families whenever they are in town. Love goes a long way when you play this music and knowing that you have some support in the audience makes you stay up on it and show all those who watched you progress that you keep breaking through plateaus to reach even higher goals. I believe that Danton is the sub for this gig so, whoever is on vacation better not get caught slippin’!
Roy quite frequently employs an elderly statesman to do the duties on piano. Ronnie Matthews is a great player, has a wonderful sound and is a strong support for this band. Ronnie’s wisdom allows him to conserve his energy and burn just as hard. He and Roy do a duet where Roy plays Flugelhorn and it is absolutely lovely. Such a gentleman and a world class player. Roy’s versatility is astounding as he can switch from blowing down the house to serenading you with the warmest tones in an instant. A natural talent if there ever was one. I have often wondered how this young man of 35 years has managed to go back in time and round up all of the historic classic sounds of the masters and produce them with such ease. Tonight is a straight ahead set all the way but, as you know, Roy can drop in the funk factor on the drop of a dime. A few years ago in Monterey, Roy closed out the Monterey Jazz Festival with one of the coldest and funkiest sets of music I think the festival has ever encountered. He played with his regular quintet and had not one but two organs groovin’ along with some other soulful players. I wish I had the camera back then. You would have seen and heard some incredible music. I hope that someone recorded that one!