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Marcus Johnson: Urban Groove

Keyboardist Marcus Johnson shows an impressive range and dynamic attack, particularly on piano, on Urban Groove. His work can be strong-fingered, dexterous and elegant (“Pavillion”), sweetly subdued with a blue bent-note edge (“Funkmaster”) or free-doodling rambles (“Sandy Point”), but it remains seamless and melody-conscious. The grooves of Urban Groove, however, are often slow-developing and similar sounding, placing Johnson’s dynamic lead voice against a squishy rubber-band-effects-laden background we’ve heard many times before. Departures from those overused sounds are dramatic, however: the warm, and upbeat “Sandy Point” has a welcome, bluesy lilt; “DownHome,” propelled by whirling, purring organ for a truly funky, get-up-and-dance feel, is another highlight. Guitar and horn accents make this tune truly move, in a nice mix of roots R&B elements, painted with only a light coat of contemporary gloss.

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