Renée Neufville first performed “Something to Believe In (For Roy),” a paean to the irreplaceable trumpeter Roy Hargrove, during a concert in his memory on Jan. 8, 2019.
She’d finished writing the lyrics to the song just that morning, fitting them to music by Justin Robinson, the longtime saxophonist in Hargrove’s quintet.
It proved to be a stirring highlight of the five-hour tribute at Jazz at Lincoln Center — a soul outpouring from some of the trumpeter’s closest musical peers. The next day, Neufville recorded the song at Systems Two Recording, with Willie Jones III as producer; it will be released on Oct. 25, on Jones’ WJ3 Records.
“Something to Believe In (For Roy)” is just one of the tunes that Neufville sang this week at WBGO, for a broadcast commemorating what would have been Hargrove’s 50th birthday. She joined Lezlie Harrison, who has her own long history with Hargrove, and was another featured singer on the memorial concert.
Neufville’s affiliation with Hargrove spanned some 15 years, mainly through the neo-soul confab called The RH Factor. She appears on all three of that band’s albums, including its breakout debut, Hard Groove (Verve).
Her studio recording of “Something to Believe In (For Roy)” features two members of The RH Factor — pianist Bobby Sparks and drummer Jason “JT” Thomas — along with bassist Dezron Douglas, vibraphonist Joel Ross, and a string quartet (playing an arrangement by Hargrove’s younger brother, Brian).
For her session at WBGO, Neufville brought in a different set of musicians, all former Hargrove associates: Jones on drums, Robinson on saxophones, Gerald Cannon on bass and Tadataka Unno on piano. Along with their song of remembrance, they performed crisp versions of the standards “Close Your Eyes” and (a Hargrove favorite) “September in the Rain.”
Renée Neufville will appear on Tribute to Roy Hargrove, part of Robert Glasper’s residency at the Blue Note, on Oct. 22 and 23.
Videography: Chris Tobin
Audio Mix and Video Edit: Corey Goldberg