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Groove Skool Band — Limited Edition

March 8, 2011

Cool and smooth, with a distinctive funky edge where it’s called for, the Washington, DC-based Groove Skool Band truly lives up to its self-description of providing the “smooth sound of hybrid jazz,” that suave mix of R&B, Latin, and contemporary jazz that has become so accepted universally now.  This, the band’s debut release, entitled Limited Edition, provides smart hooks and light, seductive melodies, as well as funk-driven rhythms to make this project quite well-rounded. 

Headed by bassist Christian de Mesones, who struts his low-frequency talents in more than a few spots (though he modestly states that this is not a bassist’s album, he gets his fine chops in very effectively), this band proves that it is capable of taking you to a few very pleasant places.

Opening with a nice hook and some smart, bright piano work from keyboardist Kevin Grogan, we’re also treated to Keith Anderson’s competent and warm sax work which is actually very evident throughout the album. The same is true of the rhythmic drive of drummer Nick Costa and the energetic call of percussionists Leroy “Boogie” Greer and Sheila Covey-Shabazz (listen to “The Bullfighter” for a great example of this collaboration). Guitarist Mike Gambel’s fiery riffs should be an attention-getter, as well.

Many of the tracks were written by de Mesones, and he proves as handy with a pen as he is with the bass.  There’s also the added pleasure of listening to the caressing and lovely vocals of one Lori A. Williams who treats us to some serious scatting which I can see impressing even the marvelous Maysa Leak.

The track, “The Train,” is one of the tracks where de Mesones’ handling of the funk element slides in with swagger , and the rest of the band chimes in to kick up the flavor on this one a few notches. More impressive runs by de Mesones can be heard on such tracks as “Spellbound.” A mid-tempo exercise in really good all-around musicianship.

Looking for a little of that laid-back island groove? Settle into the soothing “Latin Jive.” Margarita and a beach lounge chair, anyone?  Don’t get too comfy, though, because the next track, a brief interlude called “Bullseye!” sets you up for “Fight Club,” a nice little dance number, though not frenzied, with some tasty Latin jazz overtones (and there’s de Mesones again doing his thing on bass).  Following that, Williams is back at you with a spicy little mid-tempo scat thing that just spells j-a-z-z in an irresistible fashion.

It’s hard to imagine that these cats haven’t hit the national scene before now. Here’s one writer who certainly sees the potential for that happening with Limited Edition and the support from listeners who simply have to go with this beckoning vibe.  – Ronald Jackson