Groove with Me

Paula Atherton

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Groove with Me Review

by Jonathan Widran

In the late 2000s and early 2010s, Mindi Abair, Candy Dulfer, and Jessy J were the funky, sensuous female sax players getting all the A-list gigs and radio and retail attention -- but based on this diverse, explosive debut, there's no reason that the multi-talented Paula Atherton shouldn't be joining their ranks. Atherton's vehicle of seduction is a bit curious. The disc is called Groove with Me, so the listener might wonder why the rhythms are so light and breezy on the tropical-flavored opener, "Marimba Island." On the CD cover, she's holding what looks like a tenor sax, so why is she charming us with her breezy flute? That's where patience and continued listening pay off -- what follows is pretty darn gritty and funky. "There Ain't Nothin'" is a deep, sensuous, and soulful midtempo ballad, a perfect radio-ready charmer complete with trumpet and light background vocal accents. But the real fun begins on the bluesy easy funk jam "Block Party" (which features the subtle electric guitar of Chieli Minucci behind Atherton's potent melodic lines), and the party gets rolling into the night on the in-your-face brass-athon James Brown tribute "JB," which features Greg Adams doing his Tower of Power trumpet thing in a blistering horn section. Adams also adds his cool energy to a high-spirited twist on the soul classic "You're All I Need to Get By." Atherton's melodic focus is on numerous woodwinds, but her original R&B lead vocal tunes "Whenever You Come Around" and "Send Down an Angel" can give great modern urban jazz vocalists like Maysa a run for their sexy soul money. Her balance of sweet soprano-driven tunes like "Winds of Change (Yes We Can)" and blazing all-night-long dance-funk explosions like "Funk It Up!" may remind some of the dashing stylistic eclecticism of Dave Koz. Truly one of the best indie smooth urban jazz sax collections of this decade turning era.

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