Recently, ArkivJazz spoke with Resonance Records producer Zev Feldman to discuss the origins of In Harmony, the recent release from departed jazz legends Roy Hargrove and Mulgrew Miller.
ArkivJazz: In Harmony, from Mr. Roy Hargrove and Mulgrew Miller. I finally sat down and listened to it from beginning to end and there's a feeling of exhilaration, sheer pain, and anger when you're done with listening to that. To know that those two people are not around anymore and yet to hear them when they really clicked like that - it was extraordinary. How did project that come to be?
Zev Feldman: I trace the steps back to 2016. When I was in Geneva, Switzerland I took the opportunity to meet up with Jacques Muyal of Groovin’ High Records. He was a very close friend of the late great jazz impresario, record company executive, and art collector, Norman Granz. I was having lunch with Mr. Muyal and afterwards he said, “Come on back to my office, I want to play you something.” He had these recordings of Roy Hargrove and Mulgrew Miller in concert and he played them for me.
I was struck with just how amazing they sounded together, how much they meshed with each other, and how they accompanied each other so well. I mean, and for so many people, I guess if you're not a musician, this is a very difficult thing to pull off, to have this chemistry. Just two musicians playing together, without stepping on each other and accentuating and elevating each other. These recordings, from the very first time I heard them, struck a chord. Interestingly enough, I was with another friend from Roy Hargrove's camp, the great producer, Jean-Philippe Allard. Shortly after Geneva, I'm in Paris. He says, “you want to hear something?” and he played some of Roy and Mulgrew’s music, too! I think it is very possible that these originally could have come out on the Impulse Records imprint back when Jean-Philippe was at the label but that did not happen. I was chasing these tapes for five years wanting to do a deal for them to come out on Resonance Records.
Last spring, I struck up a conversation with Rob Patrick, who works with Roy Hargrove’s estate and works with the family. Also, I had been talking with Roy's manager, Larry Clothier, who I've known for about, crazy enough, 30 years dating back to when I was working at Polygram going back to the mail room. All these forces came together and helped the deal get organized. But most definitely Roy Hargrove's family and Mulgrew Miller's family were on board. We had an established track record of the type of work that we've been doing at Resonance, and from the beginning, I really wanted to build a presentation, something that would be a tribute to both great geniuses' memories.
We have all this music - two CDs and two LPs - and I took the opportunity of speaking with anyone and everyone who had something to say about these two great artists. Whether it was Sonny Rollins or Ron Carter, Keyon Harrold, and an extensive list of people, about 20 different interviews that we did. That takes time to put together, but it was important. The Music needed to have a great presentation, and we put this out on vinyl for Record Store Day this year. So, I'm really proud of this one - the music is great. They sound wonderful. You get to hear how two virtuosic masters can pull off something. I don't know if they had put much thought or pre-planning beforehand, but on these tunes they just went up and just went right into it.
AJ: There's a sense of, not tension, but a heightened awareness on these recordings. It’s just the electricity between them. You can just feel that connection.
There's a giant hole we all still kind of feel. Roy Hargrove - what a personality and a person to leave the earth - he was such a heavy guy and very much in the scene of everything. Showing up at jam sessions and just always wanting to play and spread the love of music.
ZF: These guys were givers though. They really mentored other musicians in their community. They gave back, like you mentioned. I would be at Small’s way past my bedtime, hanging in there and in comes Roy. When he was in town, he would just show up. I saw that happen on numerous occasions. And for me, and so many of us who liked Roy, we were just... so fortunate. I know Tom and his time at Blue Note can tell stories about being around certain artists. It was the same thing for me working at Polygram representing Verve Records in an earlier part of my career. I was there when we put out Roy Hargrove with the tenors of our time in 1994, and I was there for a huge run all the way through 2005 with all the releases that he'd been doing.
I had the great fortune of seeing him play many times over the years, so this one hits close to home. I think so often you have these experiences with his music and being a producer, you have an opportunity of getting behind projects and really fighting for them. It means doing a negotiation and saying we can do this. I feel so proud. Our publicity team, including the great Anne Braithwaite, represented this release and they were a joy to work with. We had three major outlets in the first week of the release and we had a cannon fire that needed to happen to let people know how much we really love this music and why it matters. I'm very proud and feel lucky to have worked on this. We're doing some great stuff at Resonance but these two artists, Roy Hargrove and Mulgrew Miller, are two of the all-time greats and they need to be celebrated.