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The Enlightened Ones by Groove Apparatus

There was a time in the mid-1970s when it seemed like every band in my hometown of Detroit played the sort of music that Groove Apparatus favors here, classic straight-ahead late 50s, early 60s groove-laden jazz. Herbie Hancock, Horace Silver, Cannonball Adderley, Lee Morgan, Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and Tadd Dameron were highly favored and emulated composers in this musically storied town for their reliance on in-the-pocket rhythm sections and challenging charts that highlighted the juxtaposition of brass and reeds. Groove Apparatus is all about that. The name is certainly on target.

Opening with the Steve Swanson-penned title piece, a Woody Shaw textured composition that voices Scott Robert Avidon’s muscular tenor with Emilio Rodriguez’s trumpet, the quartet burst through the speakers with authority. Avidon’s "Groove Apparatus" is the amalgamation of everything appealing about the band. Again, the arrangements, the brilliant playing by all members of this democratic alliance (pianist Jim Ridl is phenomenal) and the stunning original compositions. Drummer Edward Taylor’s "When All Is Said and Done", introduced by a poignantly stated piano, leads into a introspective tenor and flugelhorn duet. Avidon’s "Nagasaki Bypass" features a rousing unison horn line and classic Blue Note chart. Again, Taylor checks in with a relatively sedated "The Spire," on which Ridl again shows off his gargantuan chops. Guest horn player Rodriguez contributes "En Mi Conciencia Te Mate," on which conga master Renato Thoms sits in. The band clearly has an affinity for Latin jazz, and this Dizzy Gillespie-flavored number is the most conspicuous indication on the disc. Swanson’s "Once in a Blue Mood," illustrates further the band’s synchronous playing and the closing Taylor-penned "Where the River Meets the Sea," on which bass and drums set the tempo, and on which Rodriguez takes a turn on congas, is played in a Michel Camilo style.

The sum of the stellar playing, crisp arrangements and intelligently scripted compositions add up to one of the most delightful surprises of the year. Never mind that the year was 2001. This is a major treat.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Groove Apparatus
  • CD Title: The Enlightened Ones
  • Genre: Straight-Ahead / Classic
  • Year Released: 2001
  • Record Label: Groove Apparatus
  • Musicians: Scott Robert Avidon (saxophones), Jim Ridl (piano), Steve Swanson (bass), Edward Taylor (drums), with Emilio Rodriguez (trumpet, flugelhorn, congas), Renato Thoms (congas).
  • Rating: Four Stars
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