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recording of the week,Gregory Groover Jr.- Lovabye

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    Posted: 13 May 2024 at 11:30pm

recording of the week,Gregory Groover Jr. - Lovabye

by Barney Whittaker

GREGORY GROOVER JR - Lovabye cover

In what must be one of the most opportune cases of nominative determinism in recent years, Gregory Groover Jr. develops his presence and influence on the scene with his new album Lovabye - a passionate show of thanks, addressed to the many individuals he has been fortunate to encounter on the path leading towards his third decade. 

The saxophonist is certainly touched by a musical spirit, and one that extends deeply throughout his lineage. His previous endeavour centred on a multi-length project based on Negro Spirituals, compiled in two parts: an EP in 2018, followed by Groover's first full-length album (entitled The Message) in 2021. But that's not the whole story. In fact, the Boston-born musician was already progressing far beyond most musicians his age by the time he was first stepping foot in the studio.  

Hailing from a musical family, Groover initially enrolled as an undergraduate at the prestigious Berklee College of Music with a full-tuition scholarship in 2011. It wasn't long before he would end up on a one-way path to success as part of the institution's advanced programme, the Berklee Global Jazz Institute, which saw him emerge as a jazz master and global ambassador for the music he loves. In adopting a role that seeks to uphold the values that inspire him in support of a higher cause, it's clear that for this pastor's son, his own mission had been a long time coming.

Recorded on his 30th birthday, Lovabye is a touching reflection on the road Groover has travelled in order to reach this point. Not only his faith, but it's friends and family he counts as getting him where he is today. He can even list Walter Smith III amongst his most dependable crew of supporters, with the ardent Gregory having got to know his idol at an early age (where they now teach alongside each other) at Berklee. As a matter of fact, the inception behind this record lies with Groover's former mentor, whose guidance the tricenarian initially sought as he was preparing to bring this album's compositions to life. Groover's colleague imparted wisdom in the way that great coaches often do, by encouraging their pupil to look within, ultimately revealing to the apprentice that his insecurities were merely illusions. It certainly helps having a guru such as Smith as your fiercest ally: "Gregs composing supports how he plays," says last year's Presto Jazz Recording of the Year winner. "The heart is the most important thing the direction and motion of what he plays is where he really feels."

While we're on that subject, it's worth mentioning Criss Cross; the storied label with a forty-three year history, and Groover's new home. Synonymous with excellence, Criss Cross is to jazz very much what Blue Note was in the fifties and early sixties, with founder Gerry Teekens bringing a touch of European pragmatism to the commercial side of this American-rooted culture. Capturing the raw essence of New York postbop aesthetics has been paramount to the label's vision, and Lovabye is the freshest link in its chain. With Lovabye, Groover helps reaffirm a commitment to cutting edge jazz that picks up where his predecessors left off. As for the personnel, he couldn't have been more blessed: I figured if Im going to dream," he told Boston's WBUR News, "I should dream big and think of the people who really inspired me. And, beautifully, they all said yes. Joel Ross, Matthew Stevens, Aaron Parks, Vicente Archer and Marcus Gilmore make up the band; these masters of their chosen fields are so synonymous with their instruments that I shouldn't even have to mention who's who. But, what they each bring to the table is distinctly on par with the saxophonist's steady trajectory. There are no attempts to out-do one another in this ensemble; only friendly competition, marked by respectful admiration and aligned by a common goal. 

As for the aptly named Groover, he often commands the status of an intrinsic storyteller; one who dispels the oversaturated airwaves as he weaves his enchanting tones with a polished feel that lies somewhere between precision and emancipation. He leads his eloquent compositions - each dedicated in tribute to an important figure in his life - with a skilled sense of compassionate grace. Listen, you can take the boy out of church, but... Much is to be said of this vibrant newcomer, whose impressive career stands as a testament to his remarkable affinity for other human beings.


Gregory Groover Jr.

Available Formats: CD, MP3, FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

Barney Whittaker

from  www.prestomusic.com

Edited by snobb - 13 May 2024 at 11:31pm
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