Trumpeter Keyon Harrold is the epitome of what it really means to be a modern jazz musician. He is also arguably the most important and incredible trumpeter of this generation. On his ironically titled Criss Cross debut, Introducing Keyon Harrold, he clearly needs no introduction. The St. Louis phenom has one of the most commanding sounds you’ll ever hear, and it’s likely that if you listen to any other medium of Black music, you’ve already heard it.
Harrold is a producer, arranger, and writer who has collaborated with hip-hop’s giants: Jay-Z, Snoop Dogg, and 50 Cent to name a few. He is also an integral part of R&B superstar Maxwell’s renowned live band, for whom he has also been an arranger for. He can be seen in Jay-Z’s “Roc Boys” video, as well as on any number of stages, including, and currently Cirque du Soleil’s The Immortal Tour, an epic tribute to King of Pop, Michael Jackson. But be not mistaken; Harrold’s versatility and affinity for a profusion of musical styles in no way denotes his indisputable paramountcy in the realm of jazz. His debut album could not be more validating.
For Introducing… Harrold calls upon his contemporaries; saxophonist Marcus Strickland, pianist Danny Grissett, guitarist Jeremy Most, bassist Dezron Douglas, and drummers E.J. Strickland and Emanuel Harrold. The album also features Harrold’s teacher, mentor, and employer of many years, Charles Tolliver.
The album is an outstanding collective of mainly original tunes, as well as a gorgeous take on the Horace Silver classic “Peace”. Harrold’s compositions are brilliant and authentic, and also infuse touches of his gospel roots and hip-hop predilections. Harrold’s performance throughout is exceptional. Not only is he one of the most masterful living technicians on his instrument, his evocation of passion and beauty in his playing is unparalleled. There are few musicians who can bring me to tears from playing one line…Harrold is that cat. He doesn’t even have to be soloing, or playing a lead melody for that matter. There is an anointing on his playing that is rare and supremely ancestral. And while he has certainly learned and assimilated the language of the masters before him like Clifford Brown, Freddie Hubbard, and Woody Shaw, Harrold has distinctively reinvented the foundation, creating a vernacular that is unique, fresh and inspiring.
Along with the stellar performances from all involved, Harrold’s mixture of beauty, grit, fluidity, and rawness bring this album to life. His amazing sense of melody is demonstrated on original tunes like “Sudden Inspiration” and “The Awakening”, where Harrold’s entrance on his solo is such a pretty mixture of said melody and rhythmic perfection, with drummer Strickland propelling the whole band.
I can’t say enough about this musician or album. But I will say this: If you don’t own it, or you haven’t heard Harrold in this context, do yourself a favor and modify your library, and your soul.