Livin' Large

Euge Groove

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Livin' Large Review

by Jonathan Widran

A few years prior to this release, veteran touring sideman Steve Grove (Richard Marx, Joe Cocker, Tina Turner) decided to stop hitting the road with pop legends to focus on his smooth jazz career. Despite securing a definite toehold for himself in the sax-heavy genre on the basis of a handful of hit radio singles, he ran into a roadblock with his previous label and jumped ship for the smaller but artist-friendly Narada Jazz. The fact that he's still committed to Livin' Large as a smoothie is reflected in his continued dedication to making picture-perfect sax records like this one. His trademark sound is horn texturing at just the right spots and sometimes on the hook of the song (a notion from his Tower of Power days, no doubt), as on the title track, which features some of his most muscular playing ever, or the midtempo funk of "XXL." Groove always offers a balance between the aggressive and romantic, and here finds the perfect blend on the retro-soul-inspired breathy moods of "Take You Higher" and "Too Cool." Producer Paul Brown (who produced tracks on Groove's first two albums) helps him find the '70s pop-soul vibe throughout, an influence directly addressed on the opening track, a shuffle groove cover of James Taylor's "Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight" and Sly Stone's "Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)," presented in two versions, one instrumental and one with an autobiographical rap. Each has a party atmosphere, a slow-burning funk edge, and generous servings of that snazzy horn texturing. Groove intends his title to mean the idea of embracing life in general, but it also applies to the energy and appeal of this solid collection.

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