On a snowy night in January 2006, the trumpeter Roy Hargrove sped from Newark Airport to Merkin Hall, on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, to play a uncommon duet live performance with the esteemed pianist Mulgrew Miller. He bought there simply in time: There was no room for a rehearsal or perhaps a correct soundcheck; they chose the set listing whereas ready within the wings, simply earlier than going onstage.
The two had lengthy been in one another’s orbit, however they’d hardly performed alone collectively, so that they selected virtually completely requirements, the widespread tongue of the jazz custom. Their devices blended effortlessly — simply as they did almost two years later, when the musicians got here collectively once more at Lafayette College in Pennsylvania, the place Miller typically taught, for an additional duet.
Those two performances are collected on “In Harmony,” a double album from the archival jazz label Resonance Records arriving on vinyl and CD. Only select tracks can be accessible on streaming companies.
The album is a low-key triumph, and a worthy addition to Black American music’s stock of nice trumpet-piano duet recordings, together with the famous sides that Louis Armstrong and Earl Hines made within the Nineteen Twenties, and the underrecognized LP that Oscar Peterson recorded with Clark Terry in 1975. There’s one thing satisfying concerning the neatness of the format — the readability of the roles, the separation of powers — that permits a trumpeter and a pianist to let unfastened inside the reward of construction.
Both Hargrove and Miller died in recent times, at ages 49 and 57, however regardless of being comparatively younger, they’d every achieved a type of hallowed-elder standing. Both had moved to New York from the South, roughly a decade aside, and they grew to become formed by the straight-ahead jazz renaissance occurring in Manhattan within the Nineteen Eighties and ’90s. At the identical time, they by no means fell out of contact with the blues and gospel traditions, which that they had discovered from the within out as kids.
On the opening monitor of “In Harmony,” a nine-minute dash by means of Cole Porter’s “What Is This Thing Called Love,” Miller tosses collectively bluesy rumbles, fast-break bebop and the occasional passage of stride piano. Hargrove’s neatly dazzling solo is laced with bebop callbacks — to Thelonious Monk’s “Rhythm-a-Ning” and Tadd Dameron’s “Hot House” — but his type transcends: He has a buttery and elegantly coiled assault that harks to Clifford Brown, and the acuity to comply with Miller’s lead into postmodern harmonic leaps.
Hargrove grew up in Texas, quiet and reclusive, however by his midteens he had discovered his vocation and was turning into often known as a prodigy. He moved to New York at 20, and for months he spent virtually each evening at Bradley’s, a bustling jazz hang-out in Greenwich Village with an opulent grand piano however no drum package. The membership was a laboratory and a proving floor, and whereas there he grew shut with numerous older musicians. Miller was one in every of them.
Hailing from Mississippi by means of Memphis State University, Miller was a pianist who may fill any project. As his profession went on, he tended to do the assigning himself: Throughout the 2000s, he led a trio that hewed to an acoustic-jazz format however left loads of room for Miller’s huge palette of influences to shine — the stride of Art Tatum, the bebop of Bud Powell, the block chords of Erroll Garner, the soul piano of Donny Hathaway or Aretha Franklin, the gospel enjoying of James Cleveland.
He additionally took shut notes on the non-pianists he labored with. Toward the start of his profession, within the early Nineteen Eighties, Miller spent three years enjoying within the band of the trumpeter Woody Shaw, who did greater than maybe some other musician of his period to broaden the probabilities of concord and imbrication in trendy jazz. Miller discovered to pour these classes into his piano enjoying, and you possibly can hear it throughout “In Harmony,” together with on “Invitation,” the Bronislaw Kaper normal, when Hargrove and Miller trade fours in a high-velocity repartee. At occasions, Miller cycles by means of harmonies round a hard and fast level, and Hargrove cuts into them at an angle, touring in leaps. In different circumstances, Miller improvises in chunky, rhythmic sequences of chords — no melody wanted.
Miller and Hargrove convey the identical degree of intense focus to the ballads they play, together with Benny Golson’s “I Remember Clifford” and Monk’s “Ruby My Dear”; on most of these, Hargrove switches to the fuller-toned fluegelhorn. Throughout, each gamers are on the peak of their powers, and it’s arresting to listen to them up shut, in such wealthy element. It’s additionally uncommon, in at present’s jazz technology, for musicians to method requirements with this degree of hands-on dedication and devotion.
“In Harmony” was recorded in far grander rooms than Bradley’s, earlier than much-less-roisterous audiences, however it’ll depart you musing on what an evening on the membership might need felt like: the stripped-down instrumentation; the intimacy of the alternate; the usual jazz repertoire, renewed by means of camaraderie and contemporary concepts.
Roy Hargrove and Mulgrew Miller“In Harmony”(Resonance)