Once upon a time, jazz was considered dance music. Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman and the rest played their music in nightclubs, and people moved to the beat. But after the bebop revolution, jazz became so complex no one could shake a tail feather to it. (Has John Coltrane or Miles Davis ever inspired you to get your groove on?) Jazz became sit-down music to be appreciated in the concert halls.
Sure, the swing revival brought a form of jazz back to the dance floor, but how long can a retro movement last before it gets, well, old? Danceable jazz needed some new blood. The Groove Collective supplied it. You'd be hard-pressed to spot the influence of, say, Charlie Parker or Bill Evans in the Collective's acid jazz, music that merges jazz with funk, hip-hop, dance and even techno. It's a musical marriage that infuriates jazz purists, but it gets people out on the floor.
In fact, the Collective's roots are in the New York City dance club scene. In 1990 flutist Richard Worth, drummer Genji Siraisi, keyboardist Itaal Shur, bassist Jonathan Maron and rapper/percussionist MC Gordon "Nappy G" Clay became the house band for the traveling underground Manhattan dance party Giant Steps, a name swiped, ironically, from Coltrane. The group added more horn players and a vibraphonist and became a ten-member collective that sounds like the James Brown horn section meets Art Blakey meets disco meets all things ethnic.
In the '90s the Groove Collective's reputation grew in both club and jazz circles. Clubgoers liked them because of their funk rhythms, while jazzers respected their improvisational skills. The Collective has shared the stage with artists as diverse as rapper Tupac Shakur and that maniac Natalie Merchant, not to mention jazz musicians such as Branford Marsalis, Tito Puente and Roy Hargrove.
The Groove Collective's versatility and cross-pollination of styles makes for an interesting musical creation, but the Collective's mission has always been first and foremost to get people to dance. The Count and the Duke might not have dug it, but they certainly would have understood.
The Groove Collective plays the Fabulous Satellite Lounge, 3616 Washington, on Wednesday, February 16, at 8 p.m. Call (713)869-COOL. $7.
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