New Groove Blues could easily have been titled ‘Blue Coastal Breezes.’ The melodies caressed by the quartet made up of Steve Yeager on vibes, Tony Monaco on organ, Clay Moore on guitar, and Phil Hey on drums are brisk, sunny bright with an undercurrent of the blues. The pieces are mostly playful and light. The package feels like a windy amble down a sun-bleached boardwalk with the sounds and sights of a fading summer’s light.
Some of the pieces are well-worn like Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s ‘The Look of Love’ which recalls a bygone era and as such the quartet plays it as elegantly and stylishly as a character in a 1960’s Blake Edwards movie. Same goes with Kenny Dorham’s ‘Blue Bossa’ which is puckish and amiable as a Jack Lemmon character. Count Basie’s ‘Easy Does It’ is nice and easy as a cakewalk down to the waterfront.
‘Old Devil Moon’ begins with an impish grin whereupon Yeager launches a wild and marvelous solo to be replaced by a devilish Monaco who is darker and gutsier. Roosevelt Willette’s ‘Face to Face’ is a funky and sassy romp featuring the nimbleness of Moore on guitar and Monaco on organ. Steve Yeager’s title track composition is intriguing. It shoots off sparks especially when Monaco gets going providing a noticeable counterpoint to Yeager.
The unusual combination of vibes and organ is intriguing but ultimately limiting. Within these limitations, the players are masterful. "New Groove Blues" is pleasant and easy, but rarely provocative.