9/16/02, Justin Kownacki, Splendid Ezine
I like jazz. That should be stated before anything else is said, simply because Family Groove Company are jazz, and jazz doesn't go over well with everyone. In fact, it's completely possible that someone else may have dismissed this album altogether -- but not likely. That's because FGC are so good at what they do, I think even hardcore metal and rap fans can find something to listen to here, and if they can't, I'd say it's their loss.
It's actually unfair to call FGC simply jazz, because in truth they're more of a funk rock band with near-gospel overtones, but the end result is a sound more emblematic of improvised jazz than traditional funk. From the opening of "Agenda", which sounds a little like Vince Guaraldi leading a few P-Funk All-Stars, I knew I was in good hands. For a four-piece, FGC sound remarkably full and energetic, whether on panoramic feel-good anecdotes like "Christy" or the Manhattan Transfer-esque cool new age vibe of "Flowers For Gisa". The variety of approaches covered on Reachin are numerous and colorful, and they all hit their mark. Really, it's been a while since I heard an album with this many "long" songs (by my calculations, anything over five minutes is a long song and eight of the ten tracks here are at least that) that didn't make me want to check the time remaining on the disc. It might help that the listening sessions were broken up over a period of days, but the ability to keep my attention hours or even days after I've last heard an album speaks volumes about its punch, especially when you hear as many albums a month as I do.
The members of the band are no slouches when it comes to their craft, which probably explains not only the disc's diversity but its smooth professionalism. Individually they've won numerous awards, attained a degree in music from the University of Iowa and held the position of Musical Director of the Swedish Army Drum Corps. Not that I think "funk" when I think "Sweden", but I think you can see where I'm coming from when I say their diversity leads to some surprisingly captivating sounds. This is no garage band DIY; this is studied, concentrated musical theory at work, balanced by some inspired jamming and a true love of what they do, clearly evident throughout Reachin.