Groove United

It's a place where the boundaries of race, culture and genre are ignored daily, hourly, within the span of minutes -- even seconds. Here, dance music knows no limits -- other than those of the human variety -- and the term "family" can apply to just about anyone with a place to crash, a way to make music and an open mind.

Welcome to the near-perfect world of Groove Collective, a planet on which most everything is left to chance and any style of music is game for a thorough dissection. On the surface, it might seem as if this ten-member "self-managed committee of sorts" is merely updating jazz to appeal to '90s club culture's short attention span, but it's more than that. With members from as far away as New Zealand and Italy, theirs is a full-on global energy, their musical and philosophical influences pilfered from a dizzying array of sources. Sounds messy, huh?

In attempting to define all that is Groove Collective, lists are of some help -- though not much. Primarily, the group fuses funk, rhythm and blues, bebop and big-band jazz, salsa, reggae and hip-hop into a potent mix that incorporates a stunning level of technical ability. A certain amount of improvisation is encouraged, but only within the limits of the groove; pointless jamming is discouraged. Groove Collective is very much a live experience, the idea being to provide the sort of nightclub soundtrack that avoids lengthy breaks in momentum. Indeed, if you weren't so busy listening to such skilled musicians do their thing, you might mistake what happens on stage for something too streamlined to be human.

Even so, the origins of Groove Collective are about as human as music gets. The group came together around 1990 at the migrant New York City dance club Giant Step, then located downstairs at the Metropolis Cafe. Flautist Richard Worth and percussionist Gordon "Nappy G" Clay became the group's official founders when wild talk of their jams with DJ Smash began to lure musicians from all over New York. Bigger audiences became the norm as Groove Collective began to expand its repertoire, and its shows grew to be as tight as they were unpredictable.

The mid-'90s saw the release of the band's self-titled major-label debut on Reprise. Extensive touring followed, including opening slots with B.B. King, Isaac Hayes and De La Soul. Parting with Reprise after only one CD, Groove Collective recorded last year's We the People for the Giant Step label, a division of Impulse!, which is home to the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Pharaoh Sanders and Charles Mingus. While the buzz over Groove Collective -- and the so-called "acid jazz" scene the group has come to represent -- has been supplanted lately by the emergence of less organic dance-floor fodder (trip-hop, jungle, electronica), the group hasn't eased up on the gas one bit. They began as a sub-mainstream phenomenon, and they'll likely finish as one, too -- much like the artists who inspired them.

-- Hobart Rowland

Groove Collective headlines DJ Sun's Groovement dance series Wednesday, October 8, at Fitzgerald's, 2706 White Oak. Tickets are $12. Doors open at 8 p.m. For info, call 862-7580.

The Fabulous Thunderbirds -- So it's come to this: Kim Wilson is the only original T-Bird left to carry on the group's tradition of swampy, blues-driven rock and roll. You've got to wonder why the band's harp-blowing lead singer opted to retain the name, since it's come to represent a fairly limp body of work since Jimmie Vaughan's departure. But Wilson is keeping the moniker, and for the T-Birds' latest effort, High Water, he signed on producers Steve Jordan and Danny Kortchmar to help rescue a curdled formula. Wouldn't you know it, the collaboration produced some of the grittiest music Wilson has wrapped his pipes around in years. Raw and stripped-down funky, High Water has no business being affiliated with late-period T-Birds; it's way too real. This stuff ought to sizzle live. At 6 p.m. Thursday, October 2, at Party on the Plaza, Jones Plaza. Free. 693-2960. (H.R.)

Buck-O-Nine -- Ska bands are a dime a dozen these days, which leaves the genre's more worthwhile groups fighting for attention. San Diego's Buck-O-Nine is one of those overachievers, seven talented guys who ooze surf, sweat and skank. The group's breakthrough hit, "My Town," has fueled the interest of many an underage mosh-pit urchin, which can make their shows a rather muggy physical undertaking -- though the band has been known to whip out the Super Soakers to provide the mobs some relief. Almost as refreshing are the group's high-energy covers, particularly the punchy rendition of the Misfits' "Teenager from Mars." Opening for Primus Friday, October 3, at the International Ballroom, 14035 Main. Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets are $23. 629-3700. (Carrie Bell)

Eliza Gilkyson -- Alanis, Courtney, Fiona, Ani, Sinead -- the list of angry young women in music gets longer every day. And while all that emotional venting often makes for great feminist anthems, sometimes it's nice to unclench your fists, close your eyes and sway to a sweeter vibe. Eliza Gilkyson offers just such an alternative. Her folk/country/pop hybrid is mellow enough for fans of Rickie Lee Jones and Emmylou Harris, yet sports enough zip to satiate Abra Moore fans as well. Trials of the heart don't get any more compelling than this. At 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, October 7, at McGonigel's Mucky Duck, 2425 Norfolk. Tickets are $8. 528-5999. (

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Carrie Bell
Hobart Rowland