Groove Collective


by J.P. Theberge


Groove Collective is one of the wildest musical ensembles to come out of Manhattan. A 10 piece band encompassing a horn section of four, two percussionists, a vibes player, a fat bass and drum combo, a keyboardist and the occasional rapper, these guys lay down a groove so tight you could bounce a quarter off it. This is jazz with a funk backbeat and a Latin aftertaste. Their unique sound blends jazz, hip-hop, Afro-Cuban and funk into a melange (or collective, if you will) that is nearly impossible to sit still to, and even more difficult to define.

The collective refers to an ensemble cast of talented musicians that come together to produce one unified groove. However, the collective also implies a cooperative of styles all so distinct and singular that together they are not one blended sound or style, but many which cooperate effortlessly to produce what is Groove Collective.

To really understand what they are about, one needs to understand how it all got started. Unlike other bands, Groove Collective was not born. It evolved. It spawned in the early ‘90s during Giant Step, a roving after-hours jam session featuring a turntable and an instrument or two. The shows, typically late on Thursdays nights, would attract musicians of all stripes who would bring their instruments on stage to contribute to this collective musical experience which was rhythmically led by a DJ spinning records. After some time, the DJ gave way to drummer, Gengi Siraisi, whose punctuated hip-hop, soul/funk rhythms form the backbone of the groove. The Giant Step regulars finally banded together and became Groove Collective.

Their latest album reflects a great diversity of styles as it crisscrosses from Afro-Cuban numbers to kickin’ disco-funk to classical baroque to trip-hop to drum’n'bass and back. The title, Declassified, reflects this diversity and defies any efforts to classify the music contained within. Their previous albums also weave in and out of a variety of styles and are worthy additions to any music collection. This undefinable quality has made it harder to locate which section their albums are in at your local record store. I have personally spotted the albums in Hip-Hop, Jazz, Alternative and Acid Jazz sections.

While based out of Manhattan, the band tours extensively throughout Europe, Japan and the U.S. and has opened for the likes of James Brown and Dave Matthews band. You might see them soon in a town near you, as they are in the middle of their U.S. tour. Seeing them live is highly recommended as it brings you the dual pleasures of appreciating jazz-trained but funk-raised musicians weave their inventive solos while quite simply dancing your ass off. All four of their albums are fantastic and are able to capture the same feel that their shows are famous for: jazz for people who like to get down funk nasty.

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