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While plenty of jazz fans are schooled musicians, an even greater number doesn't have significant trainingor any training, for that matterin music. These people might not know chord progressions or specific rhythmic patterns, but they do know if music feels good. When songs are stripped to their bare essence, the groove is often what creates the groundwork for everything else and allows the music to take shape. Guitarist Ethan Mann clearly agrees with this idea and made it the central theme on It's All About A Groove, but he doesn't sacrifice all of the other elements that add up to great music.
This eleven-song program touches on everything from standards to The Stylisticsthe Philadelphia based vocal soul group that had some success in the '70sand the band sounds like its having a blast working its way through all of it.
Mann's "Foxy" opens the album, and drummer Greg Bandy's light, shuffling ride cymbalconstantly evolving and avoiding stale repetitionkeeps things interesting. Mann's sound on his solo leans toward a blues-rock vein, while organist/keyboardist Chip Crawford's playing has a lighter feel. "What Are You Doing For The Rest Of Your Life" is delivered with a pseudo-samba groove, and Mann's single-note lines are lethal. Three songs associated with The Stylistics come next, with "Betcha By Golly Wow" arriving first, and the easy grooving "People Make The World Go 'Round" following. The final song of this aural triptych"Stop, Look, Listen To Your Heartis the most satisfying of the three and Mann's fondness for Wes Montgomery comes through in his treatment of the melody. Crawford, not to be outdone, mixes up choppy statements and single-note ideas during his equally impressive performance.
Bandy's booming voice makes an appearance on "Woman Please," changing the group dynamic. A 12/8 blues feel is at the heart of this piece and, while the lyrics don't amount to much, Bandy's voice is a wonder to behold and brings a natural, raw intensity into the music. "Blues For Now" is built on a slippery swing feel from Bandy, and the drummer gets ample space to solo on this one. While his playing is a bit too busy and distracting on "The Look Of Love," his drumming perfectly meshes with his trio mates on "Minor Steps," a song based on John Coltrane's classic "Giant Steps." Mann's solo guitar take on "Easy Living" is a treat and shows off a different side to his playing, while "You And The Night And The Music" closes out the album and features some fun solo trading between all three musicians.
In the end, It's All About A Groove amounts to more than just its name...but it certainly feels good too.
Track Listing: Foxy; What Are You Doing For The Rest Of Your Life; Betcha By Golly Wow; People Make The World Go 'Round; Stop, Look, Listen To Your Heart; Woman Please; Blues For Now; The Look Of Love; Minor Steps; Easy Living; You And The Night And The Music.