Ethan Mann – It's All About A Groove (2010)

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by Mark Saleski

There are some things in this world that at first appear to be encased in mystery, the secrets of which can only be revealed by the “experts” — free-verse poetry, modern art, okra. It turns out that no special knowledge is required to appreciate these things. You’ve just got to be open to a slight shift in perspective, allowing your concept of “fun” to expand.

This is an attitude that the jazz neophyte needs to be made aware of. Too often the genre is presented as this ultra-technical discipline that can only be fully appreciated and understood after years of study.

Yeah sure…diatonic scales, modes, chord substitutions, polyrhythms — they all describe the music. What they don’t do is look into its essence. Can the concept of “groove” be mapped out in this way? Probably. Should it? Can a highly esoteric discussion of rhythms and their relationship to song structures be used to get at why a song with a full-on groove makes you want to get up on the coffee table and wave around the back of your front side? Obviously not!

None of this should imply that the musicians don’t know their stuff. Guitarist Ethan Mann and his trio have decades of experience playing with the likes of Patience Higgins, Gary Bartz, Maria Schneider, Javon Jackson, and Pharoah Sanders. Still, all of the name-dropping in the world can’t trump this simple fact: Its’ All About A Groove will make those body parts wave.

The album starts off right in the pocket with Mann’s “Foxy.” With the loose-but-tight interplay between Mann and keyboardist Crawford, I’m immediately reminded of the great Wynton Kelly Trio record Smokin’ At The Half Note, which featured Wes Montgomery. Not a bad way to get things going. This feel is maintained even during knottier compositions such as Crawford’s “Minor Steps.” The standout original here is Greg Bandy’s “Woman Please.” It’s a nasty little tune that burns the groove down in a James Blood Ulmer sort of way. Bandy even provides some vocals. When he calls out for “some of that stinkin’ organ,” you just know you’re in the middle of some serious fun.

Mann has made some terrific choices in the covers department with selections from the Stylistics songbook (“People Make The World Go Round,” “Betcha By Golly Wow,” “Stop, Look, Listen To Your Heart”), Michel Legrand’s “What Are You Doing For The Rest Of Your Life,” and a slinky take on the Bacharach/David classic “The Look of Love.” The latter tune serves up a great keyboard solo that manages to take things “out” without losing the vibe for a single second.

That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? It’s not press rolls on the snare, or tricky key signature changes, or any of that stuff. Beginners and experts alike should just listen with their body. With grooves this intense, it’ll know what to do.

Purchase: Ethan Mann – Its All About A Groove

Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski is a writer and music obsessive based out of the woods of central New Hampshire. A past contributor to, and Salon, he originated several of our weekly features including the Friday Morning Listen, (Cross the) Heartland, WTF! Wednesday, and Sparks Fly on E Street. Follow him on Twitter: @msaleski. Contact Something Else! at
Mark Saleski
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