Listen Up: Wednesday, February 6, 2003
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
BWB

Groovin’ (Warner Bros. Records)

By Ken Shimamoto

I’ll admit to having a bias against smooove jazz, the kind of stuff the Oasis plays and what Frank Zappa used to call “jazz as room spray.” The people responsible for this c.d. shout out to the CTI label — founded by producer Creed Taylor, who had the bright idea of surrounding the brilliant jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery with saccharine strings and having him record cover versions of pop tunes — as if that were a good thing.

Then again, the day I got this, I was listening to I.M. Terrell High School alumnus King Curtis and his classic Live At Fillmore West album, in which the basic premise was kinda similar: a bunch of session cats playing groove-oriented versions of hits o’ the day. So what’s the difference?

Mainly that Curtis was the originator of a style and his jams had some grit and funk to ’em, while this stuff is just slick and polite and ignorable. I’ll say this: Groovin’ made a fine soundtrack for putting away the groceries and taking out the trash. Which I suppose is the point. This is music for hip dentists’ offices or people who are more into their stereo systems than what comes out of ’em. (If indeed people like that still exist — I’d figure they’d have gotten into computer geekage by now.)

The principals here — trumpeter Rick Braun, saxophonist Kirk Whalum, and guitarist Norman Brown — are all big names in smooth jazz. They take on good old-school material by the likes of the Rascals, Booker T & the MGs, Cannonball Adderley, the Isley Brothers, Parliament, as well as some newer stuff (D’Angelo, Alicia Keys). Fine, except that the original versions of all the tunes are still available, and these guys hardly transform the songs. So why would anyone want to listen to this?


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