The most admired artists in jazz have not hesitated to flirt with pop music. But even when Louis Armstrong was singing pop ballads and Charlie Parker was surrounded by strings, the essentials of their art were always in place. There was never any sense that entertainment elements had taken precedence over creative choices.
Wednesday night's "The Edge of Jazz" program at the Hollywood Bowl chose a different path. Roy Hargrove's RH Factor ensemble started out promisingly with a bow in the direction of Miles Davis' electric voyages via a groove-driven "In a Silent Way." The group's set was also enhanced by a pair of warm-toned vocals from Rene Neufville. But the balance of the performance, emphasizing tunes from Hargrove's new album Hard Groove (which features, among others, Erykah Badu, D'Angelo and Q-Tip), found Hargrove's sterling trumpet wandering through a forest of backbeat rhythms and vamp-style harmonies.