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Searching through MP3.com is a bit like digging through a warehouse of old LPs, with the proviso that any package may be opened and heard before buying. You have to swim through a lot of flotsam and jetsam before locating a real find. In the case of The Groove Diggers , the expended effort was worth it.
The band is led by Jim Hall (alto sax) and L.P. Sims (guitar), nephew of the one-and-only Zoot Sims. With Lew Langworthy (drums) and Felipe Godinez (bass) they've compiled worthy covers of jazz favorites. "Four Brothers" is a fitting ode to Sims' uncle who, along with Stan Getz, Serge Chaloff, and Herbie Steward, were known as such in Woody Herman's Second Herd. "Brothers" is a good barometer of the workmanship The Groove Diggers put into each piece; light, airy, swinging, always interesting, never self-absorbed. Sims' guitar is steady and driving, the drums always right there, Godinez's electric bass filling in the cracks. It's what traditional jazz means: honest, fun, slam-bam-thank-you-ma'am.
Recent additions to the Groove Digger's site include "Wouldn't You Like to Know" and "Honeysuckle Rose" featuring Sims and Hall in duet. Everything's solid and worth a listen. The only piece I found tepid was "Night in Tunisia," which never catches fire.
"Somerset" is the true gem. It's a piece I go back to again and again. Hall's sax work is superb, boisterous but moody and introspective. Elsewhere he comes across as a swingmeister. Here he strikes a more thoughtful poise; Paul Desmond is an easy comparison. The arrangement is economical and precise yet finds time for Hall to explore, and even room for a tasty bass solo. I still find it as fresh as the first listen.
Check this station to hear and download all reviewed songs. CDs may be ordered from the Groove Digger's MP3.com site . Registration with MP3.com is required.
Track Listing: "Somerset", "Four Brother", "Emily", "Jitterbug Waltz", "Nirvana", "Softly as in a Morning Sunrise", "Night in Tunisia", "Honeysuckle Rose", "Wouldn't You Like to Know"
Personnel: L.P. Sims (guitar), Jim Hall (alto sax), Lew Langworthy (drums), Felipe Godinez (bass)
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.