Texas native and Grammy winning jazz trumpet virtuoso Roy Hargrove died of cardiac arrest over the weekend. He was 49. His manager said the musician had long battled kidney disease. KERA’s Bill Zeeble talked to some friends who’d known Hargrove since his years at Booker T Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. You can click above to hear his report, which aired on KERA FM. Or read a version below. (We suggest you listen, to hear some of Hargrove’s music.)
Bart Marantz loves telling Roy Hargrove stories. For decades he was the jazz studies director at Dallas’ Booker T. Washington, the arts magnet high school. He retired 3 years ago, but still remembers recruiting Hargrove right out of Holmes middle school, in Oak Cliff.
“And I heard this trumpet player from down the hall and I found myself running to see who this was. And when I looked in there was this thin, small little trumpet player with a huge smile on his face, no bigger than 5 feet. Just a small little guy. Named Roy.”
Hargrove began at Booker T. the next year. He helped the still young arts high school develop its stellar reputation. When jazz giant Wynton Marsalis was playing at a club in Fort Worth a few years later, he visited Booker T. to play with the jazz band.
“I pointed to Roy for the first solo,” says Marantz. “Wynton had started his solo. And he said ok, show me. And at that point his mouth opened up, looking at Roy, going… and I read his lips, ‘My God.’ After the show, he embraced Roy, got him into the van and took him to the Caravan of Dreams and rest is history.”
Because Hargrove played so well on stage with Marsalis that night.
Anyika McMillan-Herod, who co-founded SoulRep Theater here in Dallas, remembers those teenage years at Booker T. She graduated in 1989, a year after Hargrove.
“He was cool,” says McMillan. “He was truly an artist. You know, a lot of times I guess in high school we still feel young. He seemed to be the old man on campus. You know, the one who’s walking in his gift, walking in his strength, walking in his power. And it was just evident then, it was sort of very impressive.”
Roy Anthony Hargrove was born in Waco on October, 16, 1969. His family soon moved to Dallas where he grew up, and also took up trumpet.
After graduating Booker T., he attended a few years of college, including Berklee’s famous jazz school in Boston, Soon, he was playing with top names, and recording, and never looked back. He was a leader and side player on dozens of recordings. He kept evolving, says Marantz:
“He could play with a hip hop group and then lay down a ballad or a straight ahead standard better than anybody. He never sold out. He walked his walk. He made his statement base on the history of the music.”
Hargrove won two Grammies, the first with the Latin band Crisol. He also struggled with drugs. Four years ago, after a drug arrest, he admitted in court to using cocaine. His agent said Hargrove’s death stemmed from kidney disease, after years on dialysis.