Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Ear Candy? Ehh...

Ever wondered what an okay post-"Sidewinder" Lee Morgan record would have sounded like if the trumpet chair were filled by Miles Davis instead of Morgan himself? No? Well, in case you ever did, Roy Hargrove has tried his hardest to faithfully create that record. Roy Hargrove's new album "Earfood" isn't exactly bad, but it isn't particularly good either. He sounds exactly like Miles Davis (albeit a technically flawless, somewhat flashy Miles Davis), but his compositions are firmly grade-B Lee Morgan.

After six sorta funky straight ahead tunes, Hargrove gives us a two minute respite in the form of the ballad "Rouge," which contains barely any improvisation. This isn't a problem, though, as by then we need it. Of course, as soon as "Rouge" is over we're back in funky straight ahead territory, with another Hargrove original, "Mr. Clean." After "Mr. Clean" is, you guessed it, another funky straight ahead tune, "Style," which I suppose should be followed by "instead of substance..." In the liner notes, Hargrove talks about trying to bring pleasure to the listener, and I guess I can see how he tries to do that on "Earfood;" it isn't terrible, it's just a little bit too simple and repetitive. For an album that sets out to do this and succeeds, listen to James Carter's new "Present Tense;" while it may be a bit rougher around the edges than this one, it never fails to make me smile and shake my head when I listen to it.

It doesn't help that his sidemen, with the exception of bassist Danton Boller, who on the basis of this record is someone to watch out for, are competent as opposed to extraordinary. Pianist Gerald Clayton and saxophonist Justin Robinson are both prone to flashy, note-intensive solos and need a bit of time to grow as musicians, while drummer Montez Coleman is the opposite: he lays back too much, never giving us any real impression of who he is as a player. Not quite recommended, but not quite "bad" either, "Earfood" is one of those records that suggests that perhaps something good could come from its sidemen in the future, and that its leader has made and will go on to make better records.

I have no idea what I'll have here next time, but for those of you in Scarsdale, look out for the new Inquirer because I'm pretty sure they'll be running my write-up of the Caramoor Jazz Festival.

No comments: