The RH Factor


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Trumpeter Roy Hargrove issued two albums at the same time in 2006: this one with electric instruments and Nothing Serious, an all-acoustic post-bop-oriented date. Kudos are owed to Verve for standing behind him so supportively in this day and age of safe, bland, and unimaginative "traditional" records. Distractions, like Hard Groove in 2003, is a neo-soul-jazz date with a healthy dose of funk and fusion tossed into the mix. Hargrove's Hard Groove was the first time Hargrove left his bop orientation as a leader, and while that record had killer moments and loads of special guests -- including D'Angelo, Common, Erykah Badu, Karl Denson, Steve Coleman, Q-Tip, Me'Shell NdegéOcello, and Cornell Dupree to name a few, this date is recorded with his own band, with a return appearance by D'Angelo on "Bull***t" and the great saxophonist David "Fathead" Newman playing on about half the set. The returning alumni from the Hard Groove band are Renee Neufville, who sings and plays a killer Wurlitzer; Bobby Sparks on keyboards (from piano to Moog to Rhodes); saxophonist Keith Anderson; and drummer Willie Jones III. There is a much more urban soul feel to this date, and the grooves themselves are tougher. On the opener, "Distractions," which is a recurring theme on the disc, the horns and guitar are knotty -- they touch on Miles, but they don't drift. The sound is tight, edgy. Straight-up urban soul gets the nod on a few cuts here, most notably "Crazy Race," the smooth funk of "Holdin' On," and "On the One," all tracks featuring Neufville on vocals. "Family" is an impressionistic jazz-soul ballad. "Kansas City Funk" and "A Place" are hardcore funk (the latter in the manner of P-Funk and the Ohio Players), and it's wonderful to hear Newman and Anderson along with Hargrove filling in the deep grooves. "Bull***t" is a blip-hop track. D'Angelo adds texture and rhythm (he produced the song), and this may be the album's only throwaway, as it goes nowhere. It's also the only tune here that doesn't feel "song"-directed. It lacks lyricism, and goes for a Miles On the Corner vibe but never gets there. Still, that's a small complaint in lieu of this deeply gratifying, fun, and in-the-pocket album. It's perfect for a steamy summertime.

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