The correct answer is Roy Hargrove and the tune was of course, Thelonious Monk’s “Straight, No Chaser” and the track came from Roy’s 1991 album “The Tokyo Sessions” (Novus). When this album came out I was a Junior/Senior in high school just starting to listen to a little jazz and some jazz trumpet players. I would usually go to my local library to check out some records which is where I heard my first Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie. There was a girl in my school who was really into jazz. She made me some tapes of Cannonball Adderley and Charlie Parker. My trumpet teacher played me some Clifford Brown and a few other kids would play some Maynard Ferguson for me. I’m not really sure where I first heard of Roy Hargrove but soon I had a couple tapes of his. “The Tokyo Sessions” was the first one I bought. I bought it because the Japanese guys on the cover looked cool. But I also bought the album because it had a version of “Straight, No Chaser” and that was one of the only jazz tunes I knew (because my high school jazz band would play the head and warm up on that tune in our class).
Roy’s version of the tune has a real nice shuffle, almost Second Line-feel to it. It’s a got a bounce to it that I really enjoyed. Kinda funky. And the solos were all excellent. Antonio Hart had a kind of Cannonball fire to his playing (he's since moved on from sounding so Cannonball-influenced - that was twenty years ago, after all). And honestly, I always thought that Roy himself had some of the fire that Cannon’s brother Nat had on the cornet. Nat Adderley is a really underrated player (an upcoming contest trumpet player???) and he always played with a blues feeling that could light up at any second. Roy Hargrove has that power and sense too. It’s always simmering under the surface. It doesn’t show all the time. He saves it for the right moments. And when that moment comes he lets it go. Then look out. Badass, fiery, bluesy, smokin’ hot stuff comes out of his bell. He’s a really exciting player. And the kicker is that Roy was only 22 years old when he made this record!
I like all eras of Roy. The early, Young Lions-staying-close-to-the-tradition Roy. The experimenting-with-larger-ensembles Roy. The RH Factor-D’Angelo-R&B Roy. He’s always got a gorgeous tone. He always sounds confident. His ideas are hip. He plays the stuff out of the instrument on all tempos. A pretty special cat. That said, I haven’t been crazy about his last two “straight ahead” albums. Part of me wants him to quit playing jazz and go back to the RH Factor stuff which feels like more of where his heart wants to be. But I also love his straight ahead jazz playing so if he wants to continue in that vein I’m cool with that too (and honestly who gives a crap what I think – it’s his career to do whatever he wants). So much promise and talent and attention at a young age can be difficult though. I do hope his path will include many more great records.