Having previously immersed his trumpet in two 'new soul' collaborations in 2000—D'Angelo's Grammy Award-winning Voodoo album and subsequent tour, plus songstress Erykah Badu's Mama's Gun album—Roy Hargrove dives headfirst into the soul pool. RH Factor blends a core band of two saxophonists, three keyboard players, two bassists and drummers, and two guitarists (including legendary soul session ace Cornell Dupree) with the best and brightest from the soul and R&B 'new schools' including D'Angelo, Badu, Meshell Ndegeocello, Steve Coleman, Karl Denson, Marc Cary, and two hip-hop MCs: Common and Q-Tip. 'I just wanted to open a door that would allow the musicians involved in jazz and the musicians involved in the R&B / hip-hop mainstream to form some music that would have no limit,' Hargrove explains. 'It's like a merging of those two worlds.'
Hargrove meets his objective, perhaps even surpasses it, with an album that sounds like one Lester Bowie and Maxwell would make together. He steers Hard Groove toward the trumpet school opened by Donald Byrd, especially with the wah-wah sound trumpet production and hand-clapping street funk of 'Common Free Style.' There are other miles-tones: Hargrove's approach and brittle processed sound to his trumpet ' quicksilver darting atop roiling funk rhythms ' urge 'Juicy' and 'Out of Town' closer to such fractious pre-retirement musings of Miles as Black Beauty.
The opener, 'Hardgroove,' a clever wordplay on the leader's name, paints a new face on hard bop jazz, rocking up top with trumpet and saxophone in unison and in counterpoint, rocking down below with inventive and challenging bass and drum rhythms. Denson and Hargrove riff on Freddie Hubbard's 'Little Sunflower' to form the instrumental poetry behind Q-Tip's spoken riffing and Badu's singing on 'Poetry,' creating a very different type of vocal jazz. (Don't sweat Hargrove's jazz chops: this past February, Hargrove, Herbie Hancock and Michael Brecker won the Best Instrumental Jazz Performance Grammy Award for Directions in Music: Live at Massey Hall.)