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Jazz's 'Young Lion' Roy Hargrove Still Roars

Whatever happened to the so-called "Young Lions" of jazz? It's been more 15 years since this elite group of teen musicians was hailed as the next generation of great traditional jazz players. Most, like Wynton Marsalis, Terence Blanchard and Christian McBride are working harder than ever. Another, as VOA's Doug Levine tells us, is trumpeter Roy Hargrove, who's not only prolific, but he continues to test his own musical boundaries.

Roy Hargrove was only 14 when he discovered improvisation. The renowned jazz saxophonist David "Fathead" Newman showed his middle school band class how to improvise over a song, a lesson so inspiring it confirmed for Hargrove his dream of becoming a fulltime jazz musician.

Hargrove enrolled at the Berklee College of Music, and by age 20, had released his first solo album. Since his debut in 1989, there's been no taming this "Young Lion," who over the years has kept audiences guessing. He's made albums of standards, originals, ballads, bebop, Latin jazz, and duets with tenor saxophone stars.

It was no surprise that in 2003, Hargrove, on a quest to shift direction, merged jazz with hip-hop, funk and soul on his albums RH Factor and Hard Groove.

Last month, fans of both Hargrove's jazz-funk music and straight-ahead jazz style celebrated the release of two new Roy Hargrove albums: Distractions, featuring his band, The RH Factor, and an album rooted in be-bop titled Nothing Serious.

At 36, Roy Hargrove is taking things a little less seriously, and hopes his fellow musicians will do the same. Hargrove believes jazz will continue to move forward.

He says, "It's about being innovative, but innovation right now will come in music that's swinging and feels good. It's meaningless if it doesn't make you feel something."