Nashville is not only the country music capital of the World, but from evidence provided on Mark Douthit’s newest CD Groove, this center of the recording industry certainly is also home to some incredible studio musicians as well. Douthit and his collaborators, many of them first-call session players who are usually the unknowns on recordings backing up singers like Whitney Houston, The Neville Brothers, Elton John, The Temptations, Patti LaBelle and many others, provide a very finely polished, well produced, “tight as a fist” grooving sound that is highly exemplary of finely honed musicianship and skill.
Many of the tunes on the fifty-four minutes, thirteen seconds of music that comprise Groove are finely crafted covers of tunes by Steely Dan, Earth Wind and Fire, Stevie Wonder, Gino Vanelli and Bill Withers. Douthit also contributes four original tunes of the ten on the CD. While Groove presents nonpareil skill in music making and rekindles memories of great R and B tunes of the past through instrumental interpretations of them, there are no surprises on this recording. One would expect the level of musicianship to be very high among professionals who make a living playing on recordings. The production values on the recording are also certainly very high with excellent clarity of sound, and a mix that eloquently balances all of the instruments judicially. Douthit’s personal style however, is very much the same as many other saxophonists in the smooth jazz category, and there is nothing particularly unique about Groove that sets it apart from other recordings made by other smooth jazz artists.
Listeners who seek musical innovation and profoundly deep musical statements, or who are oriented to the improvisatory side of the jazz art form may find Groove somewhat less than fulfilling. For the general listener who hungers for sounds with a strong rhythmic presence, excellent tight playing by the rhythm section and horns, Groove will serve as an excellent addition to a recording collection. There is much to like on this CD, and for listeners who appreciate high levels of musicianship, the fine musical skills demonstrated on Groove may be sufficient enough.