Groove Ltd - First Class (2015)

Groove Ltd
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Listen to guitarist’s U-Nam’s last three projects – last year’s C’est Le Funk, the DVD Live at Anthology and the George Benson tribute project Weekend In LA, and you will hear the saxophone contributions of Shannon Kennedy. Kennedy, a native Californian, is something of a prodigy and activist for young musicians who has also paid her dues backing and playing alongside contemporary jazz performers.

Kennedy dropped her first album in 2005 as a high schooler, while also finding time to establish Teen Jazz, which is a community and resource website for aspiring musicians. Now Kennedy has teamed with U-Nam to create the fusion and instrumental R&B group Groove Ltd., and the outfit has dropped First Class, its debut album.

Listen to guitarist’s U-Nam’s last three projects – last year’s C’est Le Funk, the DVD Live at Anthology and the George Benson tribute project Weekend In LA, and you will hear the saxophone contributions of Shannon Kennedy. Kennedy, a native Californian, is something of a prodigy and activist for young musicians who has also paid her dues backing and playing alongside contemporary jazz performers.

Kennedy dropped her first album in 2005 as a high schooler, while also finding time to establish Teen Jazz, which is a community and resource website for aspiring musicians. Now Kennedy has teamed with U-Nam to create the fusion and instrumental R&B group Groove Ltd., and the outfit has dropped First Class, its debut album.

First Class is a record that hearkens back to a time when fusion was the more general but also more liberating term used to describe a subgenre that combined the soloing and instrumental creativity and conversations that characterized jazz with the electric instruments and rhythms associated with funk and R&B music. U-Nam and Kennedy recruited some first rate talent to perform on the project including pianist Jonathan Fritzen, and also included a vocal track from Maysa Leak.

Leak’s vocals are featured on “It’s Alright Now,” one of two  forays into Urban Adult Contemporary styled R&B, while also maintaining plenty of jazzy creativity right down to Maysa’s scatting, Kennedy’s saxophone flourishes and Paulinho DaCosta’s percussion work. The second, “You’ve Got It All,” is a bit of Detroit styled funky dance number that could fit in on an Amp Fiddler album. The track features the vocals of Myron Davis doing his best to make a lady forget about her past and focus on their future.

U-Nam knows the creative saxophone talent that he has in Kennedy and gives her ample room to play on tracks such as the mid-funk number “Summer Nights,” which finds U-Nam contributing some Benson styled guitar riffs underneath Kennedy’s energetic solos.

One of the weaknesses of contemporary jazz is that it often falls into the cult of the individual personality trap the routinely ensnares R&B. While R&B finds it easier to operate within the confines of being focused on the lead vocalist, jazz really cannot thrive in that environment because the communication fosters competitions which aids creativity. Groove Ltd walks that fine line well, and U-Nam’s collaboration with Kennedy turns First Class into a project where the whole is even greater than the talented individual parts. Recommended.

By Howard Dukes

 

 

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