Joe Bonamassa’s touring drummer, Tal Bergman, made an instrumental groove record with guitarist Ron DeJesus back in ’07, called Grooove Vol. 1. Well, Grooove Vol. 2 is now coming, except that it’s actually called We Want Groove. And it’s not led solely by Bergman and DeJesus, it’s now a whole group called Rock Candy Funk Party that also includes The Basic Band (Conan’s house band) Mike Merritt on bass and Renato Neto (Sheila E., Dianne Reeves, Scott Henderson, Prince) on keys. Oh, and Bonamassa is along for the ride, too.
“Instrumental groove record” is exactly what this record is, too. Or, you can call it funky rock-jazz, acid jazz or fusion jam music. Whatever label you apply, it harkens back to the golden era of raw and funky electric groove music perpetrated by merchants like Harvey Mandel, Jeff Beck and Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters. Though these five guys are all about that groove, they’re also smart enough to put in enough changes in these nine originals to avoid monotony but not so much that everyone but the Return to Forever fans are turned off. Everyone gets solos in, but for the most part, the solos are concise. Bergman, who produced this record, managed to push the band into creating the music fresh and in the moment within a deadline. This porridge is just right.
In spite of the kind of star power that Bonamassa brings to the band, democracy prevails in this band, and that’s actually a good thing. As was the case with Black Country Communion, Bonamassa knows his opportunities are limited, so he makes the most of them. He’s just one of the guys in the band, which gives everyone a chance to make their own imprint on equal terms. If you have a need to hear Joe put on a clinic, you’ll find them mostly in nice, bite sized morsels on the cuts “Spaztastic” and “Animal/Work,” but there’s an extended solo on “Ode To Gee” and Bonamassa and DeJesus trade fours on “Dope On A Rope.” Still, it’s hard not to appreciate even more what the whole unit is doing together.
Everywhere are songs that are suggestive of soul, funk, fusion and boogie rock from the 70s but put together in creative ways. “We Want Groove” has synth hits like James Brown horn blasts with impossibly funky beats to match, and a theme derived from Miles Davis’ “Jean Pierre.” The multi-layered syncopated funk of “Octopus-e” contains some gruff sounding guitar and electric clavinet that makes it a cousin of Jeff Beck’s “You Know What I Mean” track that opens Blow By Blow. The hyper “Spaztastic” has more of that scruffy guitar, and an even nastier keyboard. “Animal/Work” is launched by a Billy Cobham styled drum solo before launching into a sweaty groove stretched tight. “Dope On A Rope” seems inspired by the druggy grooves of Sly Stone.
“The Best Ten Minutes of Your Life” sublimely mashes the Temptations’ “Poppa Was A Rolling Stone” and Hancock/Headhunters’ “Butterfly.” The quarter-hour closer “New York Song” is an organic rewrite of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Riviera Paradise”, even down to the jazz octaves, but also notable for Netos’ graceful Rhodes (if you hang around for a few minutes after the fadeout, a hidden bonus tract pops up out of the blue, another funky little jam.)
A record that lives up to the name of the band playing it, We Want Groove is fusion party music that perfectly captures the spirit of when such party music made jazz so much fun for non-jazz fans to listen to. Rock Candy Funk Party is a fun diversion for everyone in it, and we can only hope that they feel the need for this kind of fun again soon.
We Want Groove rolls out on January 29, by J&R Adventures. Visit Rock Candy Funk Party’s website for more info.