Groove Collective

Flash back to lower Manhattan in 1991. Brit Maurice Bernstein and South African Jonathan Rudnick, two guys who loved the European dance scene of the late '80s, have come to New York to open Giant Step, a continual underground party held in a club where people could dance and interact with musicians and underground DJs.

One of the early concepts at Giant Step was to integrate live music and DJs. As Groove Collective bassist Jonathan Maron remembers it, "On the best nights, we'd be switching back and forth between records and the band."

Cut to the present. Now a nine-piece, Groove Collective is still not giving people any reason to stop dancing. The band launches a set with a funky Afro-Cuban groove and then segues into something closer to electronica. Before the set is over, the band might play some hip-hop, disco, jazz and house. It's not exactly music for the chin-scratching crowd. It's also not predictable music; the set list, such as it is, never remains the same night after night. Groove Collective alters it each evening depending on the mood of the crowd; each show therefore is a reflection of the people gathered there.

Groove Collective's most interesting music comes when it combines two different styles. For instance, the percussionists will lay down something traditionally Cuban, and the rest of the band will play something else entirely, as if ignoring those Afro-Cuban rhythms. Maron calls these grooves "combinations of our different stubborn opinions." It's what makes the music special.

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Aaron Howard