Music

Groove Collective: It's All In Your Mind

Maurice Bottomley

Groove Collective

It's All in Your Mind

Label: Shanachie
US Release Date: 2001-01-09
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Six tunes into this album and the easy mix of Afrobeat, jazzfunk Lonnie Liston Smith style, Brazilian flavours and dancefloor beats has you shuffling along happily (but not too excitedly) when a piano solo stops you in your tracks and you find yourself in a very special place indeed. Well, that's how guest pianist Chucho Valdes' contribution to the estimable Groove Collective's new album affected me anyway -- and the track has become jazz cut of the year so far in this house.

"Stargazer" is the highlight of a proficient and highly musical album, the latest from a modern institution, New York's Groove Collective, which is marred for me only by the inclusion of some jarring power chord rock guitar on two cuts. Perhaps the experienced and highly regarded Collective thought matters were getting a little too tasteful. If so,they are forgiven -- but don't do it again.

Fans of this band (which grew out of the Giant Steps nights in New York in the early '90s) will know what to expect on the jazzy, Brazilian, funky side of things, but they may mourn the loss of the clubbier beats of earlier offerings. If so they should wait for the remixes and for now enjoy the consummate ease of playing and the melodic strengths on show throughout. From the gentle opening of "Time Pilot" which segues into the Fela tribute "Ransome" (with great, meaty sax) through the superior disco sound of "Dance With You" and beyond, this is a journey well worth taking. The quality of both solo and ensemble playing saves the album from the twin dangers of contemporary acid-jazz -- blandness and pale reflections of former glories. Richard Worth (flute) and Barney Mcall (keyboards) and the above mentioned Rodriguez are in fine form and occasionally truly shine. The ballady "Skye" shows them off to good effect -- until the rock guitar muscles them aside.

This is an album with an ear to the dancefloor rather than a dancefloor or clubjazz album. It grooves along pleasantly but it is the reworking of global styles and the showcasing of the instruments that stays in the mind rather than the power of the beats. The few vocal outings are functional and little more, but the Latin ("Daisy" and "Compasa Tunina") and the African-influenced cuts really do work. There is a tightness and mutual understanding among each member that justifies the term collective. What's more, this album has given each player enough room to show off his considerable individual talents. They have not, I hope, permanently abandoned the more beat-driven dance sound, but even if they have, the result is one which should please the more jazz-attuned without alienating their club following.

Oh yes, that track, that guest. If you don't know Chucho Valdes (legendary to the few that do) then think McCoy Tyner in his Afro-Cuban mode -- and then smile. If you don't know Groove Collective but fancy some funky and well-articulated jazz flavours then start here. If you like rock guitar too, you will be in heaven.

From drunken masters to rumbles in the Bronx, Jackie Chan's career is chock full of goofs and kicks. These ten films capture what makes Chan so magnetic.

Jackie Chan got his first film role way back in 1976, when a rival producer hired him for his obvious action prowess. Now, nearly 40 years later, he is more than a household name. He's a brand, a signature star with an equally recognizable onscreen persona. For many, he was their introduction into the world of Hong Kong cinema. For others, he's the goofy guy speaking broken English to Chris Tucker in the Rush Hour films.

From his grasp of physical comedy to his fearlessness in the face of certain death (until recently, Chan performed all of his own stunts) he's a one of a kind talent whose taken his abilities in directions both reasonable (charity work, political reform) and ridiculous (have your heard about his singing career?).

Now, Chan is back, bringing the latest installment in the long running Police Story franchise to Western shores (subtitled Lockdown, it's been around since 2013), and with it, a reminder of his multifaceted abilities. He's not just an actor. He's also a stunt coordinator and choreographer, a writer, a director, and most importantly, a ceaseless supporter of his country's cinema. With nearly four decades under his (black) belt, it's time to consider Chan's creative cannon. Below you will find our choices for the ten best pictures Jackie Chan's career, everything from the crazy to the classic. While he stuck to formula most of the time, no one made redundancy seem like original spectacle better than he.

Let's start with an oldie but goodie:

10. Operation Condor (Armour of God 2)

Two years after the final pre-Crystal Skull installment of the Indiana Jones films arrived in theaters, Chan was jumping on the adventurer/explorer bandwagon with this wonderful piece of movie mimicry. At the time, it was one of the most expensive Hong Kong movies ever made ($115 million, which translates to about $15 million American). Taking the character of Asian Hawk and turning him into more of a comedic figure would be the way in which Chan expanded his global reach, realizing that humor could help bring people to his otherwise over the top and carefully choreographed fight films -- and it's obviously worked.

9. Wheels on Meals

They are like the Three Stooges of Hong Kong action comedies, a combination so successful that it's amazing they never caught on around the world. Chan, along with director/writer/fight coordinator/actor Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao, all met at the Peking Opera, where they studied martial arts and acrobatics. They then began making movies, including this hilarious romp involving a food truck, a mysterious woman, and lots of physical shtick. While some prefer their other collaborations (Project A, Lucky Stars), this is their most unabashedly silly and fun. Hung remains one of the most underrated directors in all of the genre.

8. Mr. Nice Guy
Sammo Hung is behind the lens again, this time dealing with Chan's genial chef and a missing mob tape. Basically, an investigative journalist films something she shouldn't, the footage gets mixed up with some of our heroes, and a collection of clever cat and mouse chases ensue. Perhaps one of the best sequences in all of Chan's career occurs in a mall, when a bunch of bad guys come calling to interrupt a cooking demonstration. Most fans have never seen the original film. When New Line picked it up for distribution, it made several editorial and creative cuts. A Japanese release contains the only unaltered version of the effort.

7. Who Am I?

Amnesia. An easy comedic concept, right? Well, leave it to our lead and collaborator Benny Chan (no relation) to take this idea and go crazy with it. The title refers to Chan's post-trauma illness, as well as the name given to him by natives who come across his confused persona. Soon, everyone is referring to our hero by the oddball moniker while major league action set pieces fly by. While Chan is clearly capable of dealing with the demands of physical comedy and slapstick, this is one of the rare occasions when the laughs come from character, not just chaos.

6. Rumble in the Bronx

For many, this was the movie that broke Chan into the US mainstream. Sure, before then, he was a favorite of film fans with access to a video store stocking his foreign titles, but this is the effort that got the attention of Joe and Jane Six Pack. Naturally, as they did with almost all his films, New Line reconfigured it for a domestic audience, and found itself with a huge hit on its hands. Chan purists prefer the original cut, including the cast voices sans dubbing. It was thanks to Rumble that Chan would go on to have a lengthy run in Tinseltown, including those annoying Rush Hour films.

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