There’s a reason the “hard bop” style has remained so popular in jazz since the 1950s. It represents a certain timeless kind of cool: in dress, in bearing, in attitude and in the music itself. Trumpeter Roy Hargrove, 42, is a great standard-bearer of hard bop, and at Blues Alley on Tuesday night he and his quintet were a living portrait of that cool. More often than not, though, the outward cool contrasted with that of the music.
Hargrove was the sharp-dressed dude — expensive gray blazer over solid yellow slacks and shirt, plus fedora and sunglasses. To look at him, barely acknowledging the audience, was to see someone too hip for the room. But to hear him was exactly the opposite. He was an emotional but restrained player from the opening cooker (“Stinger”) onward, hinting at more flash than he actually exhibited. And Hargrove’s fourth-wall reserve broke with a sung performance of the ballad “Never Let Me Go,” featuring an uneven, occasionally hoarse warble that was still a warm companion to his mellow flugelhorn.