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Gregory Charles Royal’s Hardbop Life

Veteran trombonist stages production of jazz musical "It's a Hardbop Life" in Washington, DC

Gregory Charles Royal
Gregory Charles Royal
Gregory Royal in It's a Hardbop Life
Gregory Charles Royal (trombone), Raashan Carter (bass) and Chris Albert (trumpet) in It's A Hardbop Life

A veteran jazz musician and Broadway pit player, trombonist Gregory Charles Royal got the initial inspiration for “It’s a Hardbop Life,” while performing as one of the backing musicians in the Broadway production of “Five Guys Named Moe.” He thought to himself, “Damn, if they can do it, why can’t I?” And a jazz musical, written and performed by musicians, was born. The latest incarnation of “It’s a Hardbop Life” will be staged at Mead Theatre Lab at Flashpoint in Washington, DC on Friday, June 4 and Saturday, June 5. Performing with Royal in “It’s a Hardbop Life” are Ken Crutchfield (drums), Clarence Seay (bass) and Rachel Cora Wood. The production is presented by American Youth Symphony, an organization dedicated to getting kids into instrumental music.

The plot of the play clearly reveals Royal’s intentions for its impact. “It’s a story of a young rapper who through a fantasy or dream is taken back to 1964 and the life of his father,” explains Royal. “His father’s band is getting ready for a performance at this fictitious club called the Jazz Corner. The lesson he’s learning is that instrumental music itself is important. It’s a sort of fable.” Fable it may be, but of course other than the time travel bit the storyline is not so fantastic given how many rappers have familial roots in jazz. Royal acknowledges that fact, but argues that it’s all about perception. “The problem is that they’re not in the mainstream, so that if you go into schools or whatever, the average kid doesn’t know about these rappers who are really into the craft,” he says. “And that’s the problem.”

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