The alter ego of Steve Eugene Grove, Euge Groove preceded this, his debut release for Warner, with a number one jazz hit on the Internet. Whilst waiting for the album to mixed by Paul Brown its home mixes were posted at MP3.com. Before long the recording was amongst the top six of any and all genres on the site. Eventually, having mixed the album Brown showed it to Warner Bros. and Euge Groove was soon signed. However, Euge is by no means new to the musical scene and has toured with the likes of Elton John, The Gap Band, Joe Cocker and Bonnie Raitt. In fact he also toured with Tower of Power as part of the groups legendary horn-section and performed on their Monster on a Leash (1991) album. At present he is on the road with Tina Turner.
Leaning towards pop and R&B-tinged jazz instrumentals, this eponymous album is in many ways the embodiment of the “smooth jazz” movement. Cool grooves are the order of the day, but that is not to say that the set is entirely trapped in late-night mode. Tracks such as the romantic “Romeo & Juliet” (apparently written whilst in Verona), and the enticing “Lay It Down” may be perfect for ‘after hours’ moments but they are more than balanced by the sprightly “Sneak a Peek” and the groovy “Truly Emotional.”
Furthermore, like many smooth jazz sets there are also sprinklings of vocals. In this case they come in the shape of smouldering “Give in to Me” and the sensual “Tenderhearted Lover.” Surprisingly, the first of these features the vocal talents of boy-band N’Sync, whilst the second is a John Stoddard written song on which Euge’s delicate soprano sax is complemented nicely by some subtle keys and vocals. Significantly, these tracks were added to the original recording, as was an interesting cover of Toni Braxton’s Babyface-Simmons-penned “Another Sad Love Song.”
However, unlike many of his generic counterparts Euge Groove’s album never bores. Indeed, the artist employs various techniques in order to instill a sense of variety. Throughout the set he switches fairly regularly between soprano and tenor sax, and even utilises the alto to provide the laid-back warmth of “Summer Stroll.” In addition, moments such as “Sneak a Peek” show that Euge and his producers are also fairly adept at multi-tracking: a technique which serves to construct an interesting harmonic texture. Also, by being relatively short (10 tracks), it is a highly approachable work that makes its mark and does not dwell upon a series of sound-alike songs.
Smooth jazz may be the bane of the traditional jazz world but one cannot deny its appeal. It may often find itself occupying a position that frequently borders on being boring, but when it is delivered as sharply as it is here it can be highly rewarding. Euge may follow certain established trends such as the need for at least one cover and one vocal track, but his lively and sometimes charming playing ensures that this is no run-of-the-mill set. Add to this the variety of moods and tempos and what you have is one of the most invigorating smooth jazz albums that I have heard in recent months.