So, back once more with the Artist Spotlight. Unfortunately, offline life gave me more than one monkey wrench recently and I’ve fallen way, way behind.
This time? Someone I saw in concert relatively recently, and, truth be told, until I saw him in concert, I had no idea that 1. this was his sound and that 2. it was this intriguing. I heard his music before, without so realizing, back in the days of CD 101.9 being the bastion of jazz that it was once for New York, and you may have heard him if you’re a Tina Turner fan.
I refer to Steven Eugene “Euge Groove” Grove.
You may know him from the Tina Turner live shows; he toured with her for a good while. You may also remember him as the tenor sax powerhouse from Tower of Power. I know him from a blastin’-good-time show in Jammin’ in Jamaica 2009. That’s when I acquired his newest release, Sunday Morning, and started digging into everything else. And, for my notorious pickiness with horns, I found me yet another gold mine in the brass section.
Euge’s style is definitely familiar in its sound and rhythms, but unique in its own right. It’s urban, sleek and definitely echoes of ToP in its flow. He combines his own playful originality with music that every variety in his audience can enjoy, particularly in Livin’ Large, where the album kicks off with a cover of Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight. That is a favorite of mine, if it’s played right and in this case? Yes. It’s played right. It’s approachable, funky, flavorful, as I like my horns to be.
The more I listened into Euge’s material on Livin’ Large, the more I noticed a common trait that he shares with another sax powerhouse, Boney James (you can find his writeup here): the horn is used as a voice, rather than just an instrument. Silhouette is definitely such a piece; it tells its own story, its on perspective, though its own lens focus. The intensity rises and falls, inadvertently pulling the listener right along with the music. It’s very much a ToP trait there, and to me, whether in horn, string or key, it’s a mark of a highly perceptive individual, well in touch with his instrument as well as his audience.
The newest release from Euge, which I got my hands on in Montego Bay, is Sunday Morning and is described as Gospel-inspired jazz. The title track highlights the influence perfectly. I also think of it as exactly what it is, a Sunday morning, preferrably one where I wake up late with the sun across my face. An easy favorite of mine, though, is Get Ready. Just the way the notes flow on it is a definite refresher that still doesn’t distract from what’s almost a habitual funk. Not a qualm, but rather an idea – Heather Headley on vocals for this. Her voice and Euge’s horn would combine perfectly on this.
Tenderly is another favorite. Aside from the definite funk in its back-beat, Euge’s tone in it is a bit separate from the rest of the music and is firmly entrenched in the feel in color department. In listening to it, my focus was on the sly, silky, conversational, almost tentative stylings of the melody. The approach is light, intricate, all the style and feeling of a warm breeze at night. To me personally, the song reminds me of my last night in Jamaica: dining by the water, a completely cloudless sky and a very warm, light breeze that’s perfumed with local floral scents. Light, approachable, sly, and still with his characteristic, funky appeal.
The Gospel influences are clearer on some tracks than others in the album, and it’s balanced well with Euge’s semi-old-school funky style.
Also, congratulations to Euge for having the title track from Sunday Morning climb to the top of the both the Billboard and Mediabase Smooth AC radio charts. Play on!!