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Euge Groove: Born 2 Groove

Euge Groove’s fifth CD in seven years veers sharply from his fourth, which vaguely dabbled in ’70s soul and rock. Groove hired old-school musicians for that project. For Born 2 Groove, his first recorded in high-definition audio, the saxophonist decided to hold down the rhythm section with musicians schooled in gospel music: keyboardist Tracy Carter, guitarist Jubu Smith, drummer Trevor Lawrence and bassist Cornelius Mims, who is also Groove’s fulltime music director. The result is not a gospel CD. The result is a Euge Groove smooth-jazz CD given a fresh new sound by an invigorating new crew, not the same old standbys. Musicians, take note.

Co-produced once again by Groove and Paul Brown, Born 2 Groove shows the saxophonist’s creativeness is only getting better with age. Sure, there are the trademark Euge-isms: the saxophone growl, the sustained note at the beginning of a song. But it’s the omnipresent hooks and the inspired soloing that make it a top-notch smooth-jazz sax CD. It’s nigh impossible not to bump into R&B sax CDs at each turn, and Born 2 Groove is the rare bird that’s smooth but based on rock, pop and, yes, gospel. “Slow Jam” is a highlight, a dizzyingly beautiful ballad on par with a gem titled “Last Song” on his debut CD in 2000. And the title track is a barnburner on par with his most exhilarating uptempo hits: “Get ‘Em Goin’,” “Livin’ Large” and “Rewind.”

Two vocal tracks that-get this-actually belong on the CD are stellar. Ollie Woodson’s well-worn vocals are captured on Al Kooper’s blues-gospel lament “I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know,” which Donny Hathaway sang the hell out of. Woodson does the same. And underused vocalist Jeffrey Osborne teamed with Groove for the original “Baby If You Only Knew (What I Could Do),” a 1970s soft R&B-type scorcher suitably dressed up in 2007 fashion.

Originally Published