Contemporary funk with an edge. That’s Groove Legacy. The septet which released its self-titled debut album in February is led by a trio of vets with funk credentials that go back to powerhouse bands like The Crusaders and Stuff: Paulie Cerra floats the tenor sax, Bill Steinway handles keys, and Travis Carlton is the bass man. They have put together an ensemble—Andrew Lippman on trombone, Lemar Carter on drums, Tim Curle on percussion, and Sam Meek on rhythm guitar—who know their way around the groove and are ready to take what they know to a new level.
With guest appearances on several tracks by guitarists Larry Carlton, Robben Ford, and Kirk Fletcher, Ricky Peterson on the Hammond B-3, and Lee Thornburg on trumpet and valve trombone, they have put together a 10-tune set of original pieces that bring on the funk and push it into the new century, giving it a modern edge. Like painters who have mastered representational art and moved beyond to the abstract/the surreal, they have mastered the funk and now are guiding it in new directions.
The solo work throughout the album is a treat. Larry Carlton does a killer bit on “Cornell,” Meek’s guitar and Cerra’s tenor add some psychic colors to “Memphis 40 Oz Hang,” and Lippman’s trombone shines on “47 Degree Angle” and just about every other time he gets the opportunity. That being said, in a way, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to single out individuals. With a crew like this, every track, from the opener “Sweetness (For Walter Payton)” to the closing track, “H-Town Hipster,” has its bright spots.
Funk is alive and well. It is not only Groove Legacy, however. Check out the January release from Chuck Loeb, Everette Harp, and Jeff Lorber, More Serious Business, their follow-up to 2014’s Jazz Funk Soul. Working with a varied cast of musical talent, they run through their own 10-tune set of originals. Not as cutting edge as Groove Legacy, Loeb, Harp, and Lorber offer up a sensitive blend of funk-based jazz. Or is it jazz-based funk? Listen to the solo work on a tune like “Fall Departs,” and you decide.
Other tracks include Harp’s softly exotic “Timmendorfer by the Sea,” which contains a pretty melody, a jumpy “You’ll Know When You Know,” and “Tuesday Swings,” which lives up to its name. Smooth jazz with a funky groove says it all.