Jesse Harris, Kemp & Eden, DJ Alex from Tokyo
62 Ave C.
Between 4th and 5th Streets
New York, NY, 10009
9:00PM (event ends at 4:00 am)
This event is 21 and over
Groove Collective was formed in 1990. The original members were Itaal Shur (who later went on to co-write the #1 hit Smooth for Carlos Santana), percussionist/MC Gordon "Nappy G" Clay, flutist Richard Worth, drummer Genji Siraisi, bassist Jonathan Maron, saxophonist Jay Rodriguez, percussionist Chris Theberge, trumpeter Fabio Morgera, Vibraphonist Bill Ware and trombonist Josh Roseman. After witnessing an early show, producer Gary Katz negotiated the band's signing to Reprise Records, and produced their eponymous debut album in 1993.
In 1994, they appeared on the Red Hot Organization's compilation album, Stolen Moments: Red Hot + Cool, alongside other prominent jazz artists, Herbie Hancock and Roy Ayers. The album, meant to raise awareness and funds in support of the AIDS epidemic in relation to the African American community, was heralded as "Album of the Year" by Time Magazine.
They scored two minor dance instrumental and adult contemporary hits in 1996 with a cover of The Beatles' "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" (US Dance/Club Play #45, US Dance Maxi Singles #23) and "Lift Off" (US R&B/Hip-Hop #73).
Groove Collective's musical style reflects the wide-ranging backgrounds and interests of its individual members. Commenting on the group's 1996 release, We the People, critic Michael Casey referred to the numerous influences at work in Groove Collective's sound, specifically the presence of Afro-pop, Latin jazz, hip-hop, and traditional jazz stylings. This mix is born of the members' varying influences, including bebop, funk, old-school hip-hop and classic soul. Bassist and co-founder Jonathan Maron has acknowledged the importance of a DJ aesthetic in the music, stating that "(Groove Collective's) goal has always been to emulate the range of music a DJ plays during the course of the night at a packed club....A great DJ knows the songs that can ignite the room and fill the dance floor. Some of my favorite musical experiences have been in clubs, where you listen and realize how well all of these styles blend together into one big idiom of its own." Central to the group's ethic is its insistence on live instrumentation and its ability to create and sustain grooves for a dance floor audience.
Feel, the seventh album from Grammy-winning singer/songwriter Jesse Harris, makes two important points. First, it confirms that Harris possesses a distinctive voice, both as a performer and composer. Think of the album as intimate, gently romantic, wistful, and/or humorous, and above all, equipped to stimulate those who appreciate craftsmanship and touch all who take time to listen.
The second point stems from the first: Jesse Harris has a history and a talent that goes beyond the impact he made as author of "Don't Know Why," the song that helped launch Norah Jones' phenomenal career.
That song, exceptional as it is, reflects Harris' standard level of accomplishment as a composer. It's no accident that those who have covered his work – Madeleine Peyroux, Pat Metheny, Lizz Wright, and Jones – are masters of interpretation, artists who work best when working with the best material.
Nor is it a coincidence that Harris's evocative talents have led him into film work, most recently as composer and producer of the soundtrack to Ethan Hawke's The Hottest State (out on Think Films in August 2007), where Harris' songs are interpreted by the likes of Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris, Brad Mehldau, Cat Power, Feist and other major artists.
What is unusual, amidst all of this, is how Feel exceeds the standards that Harris has set for himself – yet, at the same time, it is utterly unlike anything he's ever done.
The crisp yet laid-back groove and catchy vocal hook of the title track, the raindrop rhythm of guitar and hand drums on "I Don't Mind," the disarming wisdom of "Walk On," the ability to conjure deep atmosphere through the barest touches of banjo ("How Could It Take So Long" and "I Would"), rolling snare ("Where to Start"), or strings ("You and Me") … in fact, each moment of Feel testifies to Harris's gift for assembling the simplest elements into pictures and stories whose impact is far from simplistic.
None of this is news to those who know his work. Even they might be surprised, though, at how quickly Feel came together – and, as a result, how revealing of the artist it is. "We recorded the entire album in three days," Harris says. "We didn't rehearse. I just came home from travelling, got everybody together in the studio, played each song for the guys once, recorded it and then I left town again."
Feel, then, leads us beyond the nature of his previous work, including his reflective 2006 release Mineral, and closer to an understanding of who this artist is – or was, at the time of these remarkable sessions.
"Of course, all of that is definitely unconscious," Harris cautions. "When I write a song, I'm just writing a song. Whatever it says about me might become clear later. Listening to this album, though, I guess it has a more positive spirit than some of the things I've done."
It is also, he adds, his most spontaneous project to date. "Partly that's because I was so busy doing other things when I came into it," he points out. "I was especially involved with The Hottest State, a huge project, so much so that it was hard to think about how I would do this record. Honestly, until just before I started recording, I was completely blank about Feel – about who I would ask to play on it, what engineers I would use, or where to do it."
But the seeds of Feel had actually been growing in Harris' imagination for a while, though they initially reached for a different light than the one he would eventually follow. Brazilian music was their inspiration; its rhythms and textures had intrigued him for years, and after recruiting Mauro Refosco, an outstanding percussionist in that school, for an album he was producing for Sasha Dobson, Harris felt that this would be his path.
"Mauro and I talked about recording this with Brazilian musicians in Rio," he remembers. "But the more we got into it, the more I realized that I couldn't do this without leaving New York and spending a couple of months down there."
And so he scheduled the recording for closer to home, at Loho Studios on the Lower East Side. In retrospect, it was the right move: though it emerged from a concept based on his communion with Refosco, Feel would flower in a dozen directions, free from preconception or design, based on the first-take interactions of musicians with the repertoire.
Though the recording sessions were quick, each musician is a distinctive player who enjoys some history with Harris. Drummer Andrew Borger had worked extensively with him on the road and on Norah Jones' Feels Like Home and Not Too Late. Bassist Tim Luntzel had tracked and gigged with Harris as a member of The Ferdinandos during their semi-legendary residency at the East Village's Living Room. Jon Dryden has played organ with Harris on dates for, among others, Richard Julian, who guests as well on Feel.
Recording went smoothly and quickly. That Brazilian feel was still in the mix, in part because Borger and Refosco, sharing the same booth, easily blended into a single flow of rhythm. Singing and playing guitar with the band, Harris connected with the moment to the extent that his live vocals usually were used in the final mix. By the time they'd wrapped it up and Jenny Scheinman, a longtime friend and collaborator as well as the hottest violinist in contemporary jazz, had come in to add a few parts, Harris sensed that he had something unexpected on his hands.
"It's quite unlike anything I've done," he says, "in that it combines the more rock-oriented Ferdinandos spirit with the creative and expansive elements of Mineral. And Mauro brings in a percussive element that's completely new for me: we'd talked about going for a Brazilian thing, but often we went almost in an African direction, and when he played that vibraphone break on 'It Washed Away' it sounds almost like Bobby Hutcherson."
Built on the foundation of Harris's writing, Feel came to life more like a concert than a studio effort – or, more accurately, like an evening of friends playing for each other's pleasure. In this sense, no matter where his activities take him, from playing session guitar to producing, from future film work to heading his Secret Sun Recordings imprint, Harris can look back on Feel as documenting a moment of creativity and camaraderie that is passed but also preserved in his broadening stream of achievement.
Kemp & Eden
DJ Alex from Tokyo
Tue, May 21
Wed, May 22
Thu, May 23
Fri, May 24
Sat, May 25
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Tue, May 28
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