The man from Waco, jazz trumpeter Roy Hargrove emerged on the scene in 1989. Encouraged by no less than Wynton Marsalis, Hargrove was young and sharp enough to be included in the '80's "Young Lions" hype (i.e., youthful neoconservative cats in swanky suits). Though mindful of tradition, Hargrove — who'd worked with jazz icons Sonny Rollins and Roy Haynes — also contributed to discs by D'Angelo, Common, and John Mayer. Although Hargrove is profoundly inspired by hard-bop horn forebears Freddie Hubbard and Lee Morgan, he mos def is not trying to "be" them in any way. Earfood is Hargrove's debut for the reactivated Decca imprint, and he walks that fine line between artistic integrity and connecting (while not pandering) to larger audiences. Composed of 13 selections (all under eight minutes), a mixture of originals and choice covers, the RH5 (his touring band) opts for an all-killer, no-filler approach — solos are concise and heartfelt, free of noodling or meandering. The melodies emphasize tuneful immediacy, from the blue-sharp, Horace Silver-like groove of "I'm Not So Sure" to the hot-fun-in-the-summertime "Strasbourg/St. Denis," which recalls the catchiest mid-'60s tunes of Herbie Hancock and Hugh Masekela. Fear not, old schoolers, for there's plenty of beautiful ballad playing too, such as the pensively lyrical "Starmaker" and the spacious, tender heartbreak of "Divine." Earfood is honest, straight-ahead jazz played for, not at, open-eared audiences.
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