Picks and Pans Review: Diamond in the Rough

updated 06/25/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/25/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Roy Hargrove

Roy Hargrove was playing a borrowed trumpet with the Dallas Arts Magnet High School jazz band when Wynton Marsalis dropped by one spring day in 1987 to give an informal seminar. Marsalis invited Hargrove to jam with him that week at Fort Worth's Caravan of Dreams performance center and subsequently spread the word about the youngster's talent. Having been treated to that jump start, Hargrove, now 20, does a remarkable job of tooting his own horn on this fine debut album.

Despite his obvious debt to Marsalis, Hargrove is clearly his own man. Marsalis made detachment a hallmark of his style, particularly on his early recordings. Hargrove plays hot, combining bebop brash-ness with a sensitivity for the blues. On three original compositions—"A New Joy," "Confidentiality" and "All Over Again"—Hargrove displays a fondness for the sunny rhythms and bright harmonies that characterized the music of the late trumpeter Clifford Brown. The depth of his talent is most evident, however, in his bittersweet interpretations of Thelonious Monk's "Ruby My Dear" and Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Easy to Remember." He approaches the plaintive melodies of both songs with a tenderness and emotional self-awareness that belie his years.

Veteran drummers Al Foster and Ralph Peterson Jr. split the timekeeping duties in the session, and pianist John Hicks and tenor saxophonist Ralph Moore each add a touch of seasoned lyricism to several tunes.

But the main appeal of Diamond in the Rough is the chance to hear young musicians. Pianist Geoffrey Keezer, 19, who made his own strong debut as a leader recently on Wailing in the Wings (Sunnyside), penned three songs for the album and bounds through standard changes with a finger-popping crispness that is a delight. Likewise alto saxophonist Antonio Hart, 21, who shows great potential with his swaggering self-assurance and sizzling tone.

Hargrove and his buddies are blessed with talent that's still a bit rough-hewn. But they are well on their way to being counted among the fully polished jewels in the crown of jazz. (RCA-Novus)

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