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Saturday, September 3, 2011

Review of "People People Music Music" by Groove Collective

Here is a review of PPMM by Groove Collective that I wrote for the KUCI website in 2007
(not exclusive content anymore, as it was never published)

Groove Collective – People People Music Music – Savoy Jazz Worldwide – 2006

Groove Collective brought us in 2006 their sixth studio album, the Grammy
nominated “People People Music Music”, released on the legendary Savoy
label, after a long wait since 2001's “It's All in Your Mind.” Groove
Collective was born out of the jam sessions between DJs, MCs, and live
musicians at the now classic Giant Step parties in New York City. The
musicians at these parties, funk players from Brooklyn and jazz players
from the Lower East Side, decided to form a group and thus conceived
Groove Collective. While best known as a hard-hitting acid-jazz band
from the mid-nineties, with a big horn section that could clobber you to
death, and music that exemplified not just the sound, but the
multifaceted culture of New York City, these last two studio recordings
have showcased a paired down Groove Collective. They are a band which
effectively uses their loss of members to other projects to their
advantage. This is heard in how “It's All in Your Mind” explores an
ethereal, other-worldly vibe, not possible with a huge 14 piece band, and
“People People Music Music” flaunts Groove Collective's ability to
perform straight-ahead jazz. In 2000, when members began to leave for
other projects, such as “Turntables on the Hudson” and solo jazz careers,
all that was left of Groove Collective were the core members of Genji
Siraisi on drums, Jonathan Maron on bass, Barney McAll on keyboards,
Chris Theberge on percussion, and the reduction of a five-piece horn
section to just Jay Rodriguez on saxophones and Richard Worth on flute.
This is the line up that recorded “It's All in Your Mind”. Then Richard
Worth left the band to pursue an existence far from the city, climbing
rocks out in the wilderness, but he was replaced by the return of Fabio
Morgera on trumpet. This is the line up that appears on “People People
Music Music”, and the trumpet/saxophone front-line is the perfect
catalyst for the most straight-ahead jazz-like album by Groove Collective
thus far.

On “People People Music Music”, Groove Collective perform Herbie
Hancock's “Speak Like a Child”, originally heard on Herbie's album, and on Jaco Pastorius' self-titled solo debut. Groove Collective approaches the song in a super-mellow manner, with thick Fender Rhodes chords, spiritual bells
jingling, and long, sizzling ride-cymbals. The horns come in soft yet
bold, and the whole song grooves like a 3AM after-concert jam-session in

A wonderful addition to the Groove Collective line-up is the legend Fred
Wesley on trombone who guests on a couple tracks. Most famous as the
band leader and trombonist for James Brown, and also as the horn arranger and trombonist for George Clinton's Parliament/Funkadelic groups, he
brings some super delicious licks to tracks such as “DFU”, an incredible
piece of Afro-Beat a la Fela Kuti.

The song “Tito”, obviously dedicated to Tito Puente, came out of a riff
that the band would sometimes spontaneously go into while performing one of their many other Latin-jazz tunes in concert. Here they have expanded
that theme into its own song, and featuring Jay Rodriguez, the sax
player, on vocals, they have recorded one of their best salsa tracks.
“Mambo Mongo” further shows GC's ability to spice things up, with their
version of the Mongo Santamaria song. Yet rather than a non-stop salsa,
Groove Collective explores the melody in a more cerebral way, and comes
up with some fine Latin-jazz with lots of changes, and an excellent flute
solo courtesy of Jay Rodriguez.

Of course Groove Collective wouldn't be Groove Collective without some
cutting edge funk, and that is heard very strongly in “Set Up”. In this
piece, Barney McAll and Jonathan Maron perform a super-heavy bass line in unison on an analog synth and a fuzzed-out bass, respectively. Genji
Siraisi goes all out with a broken beat drum pattern, and Jay Rodriguez
blasts us with bombastic baritone sax phrases.

“What If” features DJ Spinna on production, and while definitely having a
DJ Spinna vibe, it still is reminiscent of Groove Collective's classic
vocal anthem club hits, such as “Lift Off”, “Up All Night” or
“Whatchugot”. Unfortunately the lyrics are a little silly (the line
about technology), though they do contain a good, conscious message, and the delivery of the vocals is top-notch. Jonathon Maron's bubbling,
super-syncopated, octave-jumping bass line is incredible, and just
classic Groove Collective.

The standout track is “KOG”, the unofficial single that has been getting
heavy airplay on various jazz radio stations. Even though it is
propelled by Genji Siraisi's extremely syncopated, high speed, live
Drum-and-Bass drumming (a rhythm that was actually explored by jazz
drummers long before Jungle music), the song takes on a very mellow vibe. Barney McAll again soothes our ears with lush Fender Rhodes, and he
takes us on a sonic voyage with his Moog solo. The highlight of the
track is Fabio Morgera's trumpet solo, which is exploratory, and so pure
in tone.

Groove Collective tickled our desire for more of their amazing music
through many official live releases between 2001 and 2006, but the final
arrival of their latest studio recording has left us finally satiated.

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