It’s all about the funk, or maybe it’s fusion. A group of Los
Angeles-area musicians come together as Groove Legacy to release their
debut, Groove Legacy (2016).
The leaders of this ensemble are saxophonist Paul Cerra, keyboardist
Bill Steinway and bassist Travis Carlton. Guitarists Kirk Fletcher, Sam
Meek, Robben Ford and Larry Carlton contribute here and there. Other
musicians are Andrew Lippman, trombone; Lemar Carter, drums; Tim Curle,
percussion; Chris Lovejoy, percussion; Ricky Peterson, Hammond B3 organ;
Lee Thornburg, trumpet and valve trombone.
The opening track, “Sweetness,” is a tribute to NFL great Walter Payton.
It’s got a smooth groove, reminiscent of the type of sound one might
have heard in the 1970s when Payton made his transition from the Jackson
State Tigers to the Chicago Bears. Cerra and Lippman team up for the
lead, playing in unison at times and harmonizing. When Cerra breaks into
his tenor solo, one can imagine a highlight reel of Sweetness in action.
If the tenor represents Payton’s speed, Fletcher’s guitar personifies
his agility and the Rhodes his gracefulness. The bass, drums and rhythm
guitar exemplify Payton’s power.
“The Know It All” features Ford out front. The horns carry the melody
with the guitar providing fills. The song has an easygoing, 6/8 rhythm
that’s offset by Ford’s rock star licks. Steinway follows on the Rhodes
with a style that’s like a hybrid of Bob James and Eumir Deodato. Carter
and Travis Carlton cut loose in the background. The rhythm section
lightens up on the front of end Cerra’s solo, but as he heats up, so
does the overall intensity.
“47 Degree Angle” is a sassy tune, punctuated by more of Cerra and
Lippman’s tight syncopation. Steinway, Carlton and Carter maintain the
same eight-bar rhythm through most of the song, occasionally deviating a
bit during transition lines. Carlton employs some wahwah and other
effects during his solo. Toward the end, Carter gets busy, dancing among
the toms and cymbals while the rest of the band engages in that base
The seven core members have careers that include sessions or
performances with artists as diverse as Al Green, Stevie Wonder, Sara
Bareilles and Carrie Underwood. Influences include the Crusaders and the
James Brown horns.
Cerra, Steinway and Carlton worked in mix-and-match pairs, composing all
10 tracks on Groove Legacy. The music, while fresh, is a
throwback to the 1970s sounds of bands like the Crusaders, and the
instrumental side of such vocal acts as Earth, Wind & Fire, Commodores
and Kool & the Gang.