Roy Hargrove Dies at 49


Roy Hargrove at Chicago’s Jazz Showcase in 2017.

(Photo: Mark Sheldon)

Roy Hargrove, the acclaimed trumpeter who was part of the Young Lions jazz movement of the early 1990s, has been reported dead at the age of 49 by WBGO.

The report stated Hargrove died Friday night in New York from cardiac arrest after being admitted to the hospital for kidney issues, according to his longtime manager Larry Clothier.

A child prodigy, Hargrove was known for his natural talent, impeccable tone and ability to bring a new generation and a new attitude to jazz. He was one of the first jazz artists to successfully fuse the jazz tradition with the attitude of hip-hop.

Known for fiery, entertaining shows when he was on his game, Hargrove was also known for hard-living and battled substance abuse issues throughout his adult life. Hargrove was on dialysis for many years. Still, few could match his ability to light up a crowd. Looking thin and frail during a performance at this year’s Monterey Jazz Festival, Hargrove wowed the crowd with beautiful trumpet work, stage presence and humor, even mixing in some classic dance moves into his set.

“I knew this bright-eyed, loving young man, Roy Hargrove, since 1982,” said Bart Marantz, retired jazz director for the Booker T. Washington School for the Performing Arts in Dallas, where Hargrove attended high school. “Hearing the sound of the trumpet like few I’ve heard before coming from down the school hall, I was just astounded by the beauty and, really, by what I wasn’t hearing—no clutter, only melodic statements. But the truly amazing statement here was the space and phrasing he had that only comes from a seasoned and very accomplished 40-year-old! I ran toward the sound and there was this little middle-school, stick of a kid with such a sweet face playing his heart out on his trumpet. He was playing the music with depth, color, space and beauty like few others—at 14!

“He loved trumpet, jazz and its wonderful history, basing all of his gifts on those who came before him. He was truly carrying more than he could take in and had problems with this weighty artistic ability on his shoulders; [it was] far beyond his understanding. When Roy performed, he was saying much more than Roy. We were in the presence of the Lord, who gave Roy this unique ability to take the gift of those 12 notes and make them his through Roy. Rest in peace dear Roy—with love, respect and admiration—for running the race like no other.”

DownBeat has posted a tribute to Hargrove. DB

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