Marlon Saunders - A Groove So Deep : The Live Sessions

Marlon Saunders
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Marlon Saunders' career has always been about taking chances and expanding as an artist, and he continues that trend on A Groove So Deep: The Live Sessions.  Recorded over a few days with his band, Mood Control, A Groove's goal was to create an entirely new view of the material from Saunders' excellent Enter My Mind album as well as to take on new material and classic soul covers in a "live" setting that straddled the soul/jazz border.  Fourteen hours of recordings have been condensed to one on Groove and the great news is that the concept works wonderfully.   Updated versions of Saunders' "Keep Doin' What Ya Do," "The Beginning of Never" and "Love Philosophy" may even be better than the originals, and "Afro Blue My Mind," which was only moderately interesting on Enter My Mind, here has a cool, retro feel that makes the song's lyrical content bust out in

Marlon Saunders' career has always been about taking chances and expanding as an artist, and he continues that trend on A Groove So Deep: The Live Sessions.  Recorded over a few days with his band, Mood Control, A Groove's goal was to create an entirely new view of the material from Saunders' excellent Enter My Mind album as well as to take on new material and classic soul covers in a "live" setting that straddled the soul/jazz border.  Fourteen hours of recordings have been condensed to one on Groove and the great news is that the concept works wonderfully.   Updated versions of Saunders' "Keep Doin' What Ya Do," "The Beginning of Never" and "Love Philosophy" may even be better than the originals, and "Afro Blue My Mind," which was only moderately interesting on Enter My Mind, here has a cool, retro feel that makes the song's lyrical content bust out in a new way. 

Special kudos to Mood Control, which sounds fantastic throughout the album.   This is especially true on "Inspiration," which is given a full live jazz treatment highlighted by the great playing of pianist Joe Scott.  Best of all, though, is the bluesy cover of Rose Royce's "I Wanna Get Next to You."  Saunders transforms that traditionally smooth soul cut with an emotional, wrenching reading that provides an epiphany for the song's long-ignored forlorn lyrics and, as it leads into Mark Gross's sax solo, creates the album's greatest moment. 

A Groove is a success on multiple levels, but at the most basic it works because it provides the smoky, moving immediacy of a great club performance by a terrific band and singer, with surprisingly balanced sound throughout (only occasionally marred by overpowering backing vocals).  At a time when "live" soul albums are a rarity, this is a an absolutely successful gamble by an artist who seems to thrive on creative challenges.  Highly recommended.

by Chris Rizik

 

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