Groove Company infuses the jam with tight songwriting
4/4/03, Kimberly Nicoletti, Summit Daily News, Dillon, CO
Family Groove Company is growing up in the brotherhood of jam bands, but it's determined not to follow in the footsteps of mediocre musicians who lose sight of tight songwriting in their quest to explore the groove.
The quartet formed in Los Angeles in 2001 and is currently based out of Chicago. It has avoided the ubiquitous jam band hip-hop, funk and rock groove formula laden with endless guitar solos by focusing - with a fierce attentiveness - on composition.
"It's our songwriting where we have room to distinguish ourselves," said keyboardist and lead vocalist Jordan Wilkow. "What we are saying compositionally is fresh. It's definitely groove music - we try to bring in elements of rock 'n' roll, funk and elements of jazz. We're all strongly committed to improvisation, but we try to be mindful of song structure as well. It's easy to lose sight of songwriting when the attention to the music stops at the soloing. It's kind of becoming a cliché - laying down a hip-hop, funk groove that goes on for 20 minutes with someone playing lead lines. There's a place for that, but unless you can hold your listeners' attention, you can't overlook the songwriting."
Family Groove Company blends the danceable rhythms of James Brown and Herbie Hancock with the more traditional song structure and catchy tunes of the Beatles. And, like the Grateful Dead, Family Groove's commitment to the musical journey rules its live shows.
"We really feed off of our crowd," Wilkow said. "The people that are there play a role in what comes out. We are going after a fresh experience with each show. We're not quite there yet with no repeats because we play from three to four hours each night, but we still offer something different at each show."
Last spring, after developing more than three hours of original material, the outfit recorded its debut album, "Reachin'." Eight of the tracks showcase the band's three-part harmonies and schooled musicianship. The players let loose on two of the 10 tracks, "The Rattler" and "One's On the Way," crafting bluesy, trippy and jazzy grooves with a free-form feel.
"We wanted to showcase our songwriting, so the majority of the tracks are fairly song oriented, as jam bands go," Wilkow said. "We bring songwriting that goes beyond just one- to two-chord progressions, but we don't lose sight of the groove that keeps people dancing."
Bassist Janis Wallin and drummer Mattias Blanck bring in the danceable rhythms, while guitarist Adam Lewis adds the melodies to Wilkow's original tunes. The result is energetic, coherent compositions that appeal to audiences ranging from the most casual fan to critical musicians.
Family Groove Company makes its debut in Summit County Sunday at the Lake Dillon Pub.