Finding a tight groove, or a groove you can ride like the wind, can be as crucial as the all- important melodies, harmonies, rhythms, and conversations in the jazz world. Grooves are unique onto themselves, and there are thousands of variants from region to region around the globe. Tenor and soprano saxophonist Gary Meek has been marinating in the Monterey Peninsula of California, basking in the sun, the surf, and the natural beauty that constitute the Monterey Groove. Joined by a core band of guitarist Michael Lent, drummer Skylar Campbell, and bassist Robert Wider, Meek also enlists several guest stars on this project, among them, longtime Meek ccollaborator and drummer extrordinare Dave Weckl, percussion master Airto Moreira, and vocalist Flora Purim.
Save one vocal by Purim, all compositions are Meek originals. "For A Long Time," one of two tunes with Weckl, kicks off the record with a joyful taste of what is to come. The groove is not only happy-go-l ucky, but also denotes a striding on top of the world demeanor. Meek takes his tenor saxophone out for a walk and pleasures the air with every note. The bright song, first recorded by Meek some twenty-five years ago, became even sunnier with the Monterey makeover. Meek then lends not only his tenor and soprano saxophones to the upbeat funk fibers of "Power Station," but also some fiery keyboard grooves. He actually plays keyboards on every tune, his work on "Power Station" perhaps being his most vibrant. The relaxing mood brought on by the "Midnight Sky" is then gently explored by Meek on his soprano saxophone. The softer groove gives way to the title track, "Monterey Groove," beautifully flowing into crisp horns, a taste of Latin percussion, and some soaring guitar riffs. It is groovin' for sure and perhaps the most sophisticated arrangement on the record. Another blast from the past was the souped up "Bosphorous Blues." This has a unique jagged-edge peppery groove which Meek rides in glorious form on both tenor saxophone and keys. Robert Papacica sits in and brings some slick guitar grooves with him.
The grooves stumble on the Purim vocal entitled "The Hope." The wistful, if not dreary, song may have its place. However, it was a piece for a different puzzle that here let the air out of the balloons. Meek and company came back bursting at the seams with the big grooves of "Move Out!." Weckl returns to hard drive the swell of Meek, Lent, and trumpeter Akili Bradley. Smoking on his tenor saxophone, Meek took the ball and ran with it. The title "Shuffle This" says it all. The shuffle groove bares its soul with Meek sounding off on tenor and soprano saxophones. Anthony Paolini adds punch with a tenor saxophone solo. The ensemble is also kicked up with the addition of trumpeter Bradley and vocalist Janice Perl, the latter adding texture using her voice as an instrument. "Cannery Row" is a cool reminder of the good vibe or swagger at the beginning of the record. Not the same groove, but the same intent. This time as smooth as silk, the concept of the record personified. It was time to bring on the funk and that is exactly what they did with "Horizon," building the horns to a big finish to the groove fest.
Meek closed in sentimental fashion with "Jenna's Song." The gentle tune was written for his granddaughter. Played with heart, it is a touchingly quiet and lovingly contemplative close to a groovy record.
For A Long Time; Power Station; Midnight Sky; Monterey Groove; Bosphorous Blues; The Hope; Move Out!; Shuffle This; Cannery Row;
Horizon; Jenna's Song.
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