‘We captured lightning’ – documenting jazz hero Roy Hargrove

Film-maker Eliane Henri set out to chronicle the day-to-day life of revered jazz trumpeter Roy Hargrove – but didn’t know she would also be documenting his untimely death

From the start of their 28-year friendship, Eliane Henri knew trumpeter Roy Hargrove was a genius. “I was 17 when I went to see his first show in LA and it was like nothing I’d experienced before,” Henri says. “Jazz was this old music to me and listening to it used to be like eating your vegetables, but here was this 20-year-old guy with a totally fresh, fully formed sound already. It was like having Miles Davis walk among us.”

In the years since that debut show in the early 90s, Hargrove’s star ascended. Winning two Grammys in 1998 and 2002 – the latter with Davis collaborator Herbie Hancock – Hargrove went on to apply his hard-swinging sound and ear for intricate arrangements to the spectrum of Black American music. He was a founding member of the experimental music group the Soulquarians, alongside drummer Questlove, singer D’Angelo and rapper Common, while his RH Factor group interweaved R&B, funk and hip-hop with jazz improvisation, earning a Grammy nomination in 2004. His 2008 album Earfood displays the perfect synthesis of his sound, playing as a mix of big-band swing and funk swagger across its 14 tracks and ultimately producing a much-covered, modern jazz standard in the track Strasbourg/St Denis.

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