Roy Hargrove Live Review at Yoshi’s 1/17/10


With The RH Factor, Roy Hargrove has collaborated with some of the most respected hip hop and soul artists of the last decade including Erykah Badu, D’Angelo, Common, Q-Tip, Meshell Ndegeocello, Karl Denson and more. Tonight at Yoshi’s Jazz Club in San Francisco was no exception. Featuring Bay Area talents Lyrics Born, Goapela, and Kirby Dominant, The RH Factor were at their best.

It’s easy to confuse hip hop and rap. Hip hop is the all encompassing umbrella, referencing and incorporating all the cultural aspects: dj, b-boy/ b-girl, graffiti writer, and rapper. It is the all encompassing history of a musical culture. The references, the samples, the recreation of jazz, soul, R&B, blues, funk, rock & roll, and even these days, house music. It feels therefore natural, if not cyclical or symbiotic that Roy Hargrove, a renowned jazz artist first recognized for his straight-ahead-jazz would find a second, and equally successful path as a hip hop fused jazz performer. With The RH Factor, Hargrove connects jazz to hip hop, the underground to the mainstream all into one cohesive combination. It’s quite the feat and proves quite the delight.

With a smile I can say that unlike the typical hip hop concert tonight show began promptly at seven. This is obviously, no typical hip hop concert. Hargrove walked onto stage in the front of his eight piece band: three pianists, two saxophonists, a guitarist, a bassist, and a drummer (the full lineup actually includes another bassist and drummer). Quick to blow and show his chops, he wasted no time with an introduction. It would have been unnecessary, as his neon green sunglasses with flashing lights were an easy tip-off—he was the man of the hour.

Hargrove once said, “I’ve been doing more touring with RH Factor than my quintet lately. People are turning a deaf ear to jazz. Some of that is the fault of jazz musicians trying too hard to appear to be cerebral. They aren’t having fun playing the music and that’s why people aren’t coming to hear it live anymore.” True to his words, if Hargrove wasn’t playing, singing or dancing, he was smiling and clapping his hands. Hargrove never solo-ed or took away from the band while playing a mishmash from the group’s three albums. Pianist and singer Renee Neufville’s voice was so effortlessly beautiful that I wondered if her regular voice was equally as stunning. Equally impressive, throughout the night Bobby Sparks played a combination of the arp, organ and piano with either of his hands.

Typical of a jazz performance showcasing each member of the band, Hargrove welcomed guests Lyrics Born, Goapella and Kirby Domination one by one, giving each a time to shine. To my dismay, their moments were less collaborative and more showcasing. Each artist is undeniably talented, but the break from The RH Factor’s groove was more jaunting than refreshing, with one exception. Midway through their set, The RH Factor played Funkadelic’s “One Nation Under The Groove,” with Hargrove singing the hook before Lyrics Born dropped a verse. The nod to funk ended with the saxophonist playing the bridge for the hip hop classic “Let Me Clear My Throat” by DJ Kool. It was that perfect blend, underground, mainstream, jazz, and hip hop that Hargrove at his best creates.

As the night came to an end the crowd’s cry for a second encore had to be subdued by Hargrove, “Some of these people have planes to catch, you know how hard that is.” It is hard, but probably not as hard as the wait to see The RH Factor perform again—because that’s just plain rough.