The Groovemasters are a new contemporary jazz ensemble whose eponymous offering is a five song EP that richly satisfies and leaves the listener wanting more. These heavy-hitting former backing musicians have joined forces to create some emotionally charged music that hits hard and validates their chosen group name.
The EP opens with "Brown Rice," a tasty appetizer flavored by a masterful bass funk groove, an infectious beat, and a main-course-suitable playful attitude. It’s radio friendly, with a memorable melody melded together by the blended concoction consisting of the sassy saxophone playing of Dean Mongerio and the sprightly seasoned keyboards of Tony "TC" Castillo. In addition, the combination of Curtis Nutall on drums and Robert Wawoe on bass form a potent rhythm section to be reckoned with.
"Human Nature" is the lone non-original composition included on the disc. The song co-written by Toto’s keyboardist Jeff Pocaro first gained prominence as the Quincy Jones produced Michael Jackson song released as a hit single from Thriller. The treatment here is nearer to Miles Davis’s marvelous version. The keyboards are magnificently ominous and brooding, with the sax replacing Miles’s trumpet as the second lead instrument. The vocals are kept in the background, with the emphasis on the deep furrowed groove.
A splendid contemporary jazz vehicle, "Ripple Effect," allows all of the band members to showcase their respective talents. Each individual pulls together to create a truly enjoyable sonic treat. It simmers and cooks from beginning to end with gusto. An improvisation quality is present, but it all fits together so tightly that you get the undeniable feeling that there is no "winging it" here.
A shade darker feel is displayed on "Jungle Strut," with the musical strutting being done by the fiercely funky saxophone tiger poised and ready to pounce on his prey within the dimly lit jungle forest floor. The beguiling beat is unrelenting and the cymbals are struck to pure perfection. The bass shuffle is hip shakin’ inductive magic and supports the tune’s thrust.
The final cut, "¿Tony Que?," rumbles along like a fusion-fueled freight train steaming to its next destination. The neo-scat vocals assist the engine roaring down the rails, with the song employing subtle tempo shifts, and a marvelous keyboard break piloting the way.
All things considered, this is a most invigorating debut release featuring state of the art quality production. It’s tough to pick a personal favorite song; all of them are triumphs. The Groovemasters EP effectively sets the stage for future energized integrative recording projects that amalgamate the group’s penchant for composition combined with their considerable musical chops.