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Saturday, June 16, 2012

EUGE IS IN THE GROOVE

Smooth Jazz Saxophonist throws a big party at Thornton Winery

When Euge Groove walked out onto the Thornton Winery stage last Sunday afternoon, he said into the microphone in an almost inaudible tone,
“Y’all feeling alright?”  (cheers from the crowd).
“Let’s try that again. I said y’all feeling alright? (louder cheers) “
“Y’all ready for a party? (crazy loud cheers)
“Alright, then let’s do this.” (L.A. Kings-winning-the-Staley Cup-cheers)
With that, Groove launched into his classic Born 2 Groove and the dance floor filled up within seconds.  The party was on.

Euge Groove wows the crowd with his
mashup of Just My Imagination and
Let's Get it On. Photo by Nancy Wilson

The Miami-born Groove who expertly mixes soul, pop and jazz, put on a crowd-pleasing performance that never waned.  As the Temecula summer weather cooled when Groove took the stage in the late afternoon, he immediately turned the heat up and the appreciative crowd partied along with him.  He performed all of his hits, including XXL, Chilaxin’ and Livin’ Large. 
He loved talking to the audience (I found it strange that the more I drank, the easier it was for me to understand him.  Go figure..).  Groove waded into the crowd during a soulful mashup of the Temptations classic “Just My Imagination and Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get it On.”  The music even took a spiritual turn with the brilliant “Sunday Morning.”
I have seen many smooth jazz saxophonists over the years, but Groove (along with Eric Darius) are – in my opinion – the best.  Groove has the phrasing skills of Kenny G, but unlike most players, his sound is multi-layered and incredibly soulful.  It probably comes from his days with Tower of Power.  He specializes in the tenor sax, but he played a beautiful soprano on Tenderhearted Lover.
Beyond his extraordinary musicianship, Euge Groove is a tremendous showman.  He seems to have so much fun and the fans have fun with him.  And his act works well in the intimate setting of Thornton Winery.  Groove’s band was terrific.  John Stoddart on keyboards, Alex Al on bass and Danny Jacob on guitar provided great backup and a good groove.
The concert was opened by jazz-fusion group Down to the Bone.  These young guys can really play.  They reminded me of a young Weather Report.  Led by bassist Rufus Philpot, the band includes drummer Iahji Hampton, saxophonist Katisse Buckingham, keyboardist Lao Tizer, Gabriel Johnson on trumpet and Steve Sorcon on guitar (who was so new the group that he was using sheet music to play.).  Mixing jazz and funk, this tight group effortlessly played songs like Supercharged and Future Boogie.  The Thornton crowd gave them a standing ovation at the end of their set.  This band gets a big thumbs up from me.