The Amazing Duets of Roy Hargrove and Mulgrew Miller


On a snowy evening in January 2006, trumpeter Roy Hargrove He sped from Newark Airport to Merkin Hall on Manhattan’s Upper West Side to perform a rare duet. venerable pianist Mulgrew Miller. He got there just in time: there was no room for rehearsal, not even a sound check; They chose the set list while waiting in the wings just before taking the stage.

The two had been in each other’s orbit for a long time, but had hardly played together, so they chose almost entirely the standard, the common language of the jazz tradition. Their instruments mingled effortlessly—as almost two years later when the musicians reunited for another duet at Lafayette College in Pennsylvania, where Miller sometimes taught.

These two performances were combined in the duo album “In Harmony”, which was released on vinyl and CD by archival jazz label Resonance Records. Just select parts It will be available on streaming services.

The album is a humble triumph and a worthy addition to Black American music’s great inventory of trumpet-piano duet recordings. famous parties The under-recognized work of Louis Armstrong and Earl Hines in the 1920s. LP What Oscar Peterson recorded with Clark Terry in 1975. There is something satisfying about the neatness of the format—the clarity of the roles, the separation of powers—that allows a trumpeter and a pianist to unwind in the gift of structure.

Both Hargrove and Miller have died in recent years at the age of 49 and 57, but despite being relatively young, each had achieved some sort of holy elder status. Both had moved from the South to New York about a decade apart and were shaped by the straight-up jazz renaissance that continued in Manhattan in the 1980s and ’90s. At the same time, they never broke with the blues and gospel traditions they learned from the inside out when they were young.

In the opening track of “In Harmony”, in the nine-minute sprint of Cole Porter’s “What Is This Thing Called Love,” Miller brings together blues rumbles, fast-break bebop and the occasional stride piano transition. Hargrove’s brilliantly dazzling solo is adorned with bebop callbacks to Thelonious Monk’s “Rhythm-a-Ning” and Tadd Dameron’s “Hot House” – yet it transcends style: buttery and subtly curvy, like Clifford Brown it has an attack, and its sharpness is to follow Miller’s path to postmodern harmonic leaps.

Hargrove grew up quiet and reclusive in Texas, but by the age of middle ten he had found his vocation and was becoming known as a genius. He moved to New York at the age of 20 and spent months almost every night at the Bradley, a lively jazz venue in Greenwich Village with a luxury grand piano but no drum kit. The club was a lab and testing ground, and while there he became close with a variety of ex-musicians. Miller was one of them.

Hailing from Mississippi through Memphis State University, Miller was a pianist who could handle any task. As his career progressed, he tended to make the assignments himself: throughout the 2000s, led a trio It was carved into the acoustic jazz format but left plenty of room for Miller’s broad palette of influences to shine – Art Tatum’s pitch, Bud Powell’s bebop, Erroll Garner’s block chords, Donny Hathaway or Aretha Franklin’s soul piano, James Cleveland ‘s gospel game.

He also took close notes on the non-pianists he worked with. Towards the beginning of his career, in the early 1980s, Miller spent three years playing in the band of trumpeter Woody Shaw, who did perhaps more than any other musician of his era to expand the possibilities of harmony and overlay in modern jazz. Miller learned to translate these lessons into piano playing and used it in “In Harmony,” including “Invitation,” the Bronislaw Kaper standard, Hargrove and Miller. the trade quartet in a high-speed canned response. Sometimes Miller alternates between harmonies around a fixed point, and Hargrove cuts them at an angle, moving in leaps. In other cases, Miller improvises in chunky, rhythmic chord sequences—no melody needed.

Miller and Hargrove bring an equally intense focus to the ballads they play, including Benny Golson’s “I Remember Clifford” and Monk’s “Ruby My Dear”; in most of these, Hargrove switches to the fuller-toned fluegelhorn. From start to finish, both actors are at their peak and hearing them up close in such rich detail is astounding. In addition, it is rare for musicians in today’s jazz generation to approach standards with this level of applied commitment and commitment.

“In Harmony” was recorded in rooms much larger than Bradley’s, in front of a much less noisy audience, but it will get you thinking about what a night at the club might feel like: simplified instrumentation; sincerity of the exchange; The standard jazz repertoire was renewed with friendship and fresh ideas.

Roy Hargrove and Mulgrew Miller “In Harmony” (Resonance)


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