January 28, 2005

Euge In The Groove

Welcome to the latest issue of Denis Poole’s Secret Garden, the page that offers a British perspective on all that’s good, and not so good, in the world of smooth jazz and classic soul.

Some artists in the field of pop are strictly studio creations. They ramp up the record sales but when it comes to performing live they just can’t cut it. Smooth jazz performers tend not to be like that. Their backgrounds typically mean that they were performing to audiences well before their first record deals were ever thought of. Consequently live performances tend to add to their stature rather than detract from it. Pre-eminate in this is ex Tower of Power horn player Euge Groove who was an absolute sensation throughout the week of the Warren Hill Smooth Jazz Cruise (WHSJC) 2005.

Euge just seems to have it all. A radio ready sound from the production genius of Paul Brown, three successful albums to date, another one on the way, high profile touring engagements with some of the icons of modern pop and a unique ability to connect with his audience.

EugeGroove_cruise04.jpgIt didn’t take long on board the MS Zuiderdam for Euge Groove to make his mark. Mid way through Peter White's set, during the second evening late show, he joined White to play along on ‘Turn It Out’, the track on which he also appears on Whites 2001 CD Glow. His appearance was sensational. As those who have seen him live before will know, Euge doesn’t just walk on stage, he is welcomed like a gladiator by his fans who yell out his hallmark ‘Euuuuuuuuge’ at first sight. Euge starts to play, waves one arm in the air and immediately the entire audience are waving their arms in the air. He simply sets the place alight and that was exactly what he did playing in front of WHSJC enthusiasts who were really up for a party.

So, how did all this happen? Steven Eugene Grove, aka Euge Groove, began playing piano in the second grade and turned to the saxophone at the age of nine or ten. His teacher gave him a classical education on the instrument, which he followed at the University of Miami’s School of Music. It was at this time that he cultivated an interest in jazz. After graduation, he initially remained in Miami where he did session work and played in bands such as Expose. He can be heard on the group’s #1 1987 single ‘Seasons Change’.

He then moved to Los Angeles. A roommate during his early time there was James Slater and together they co-wrote a song, ‘Hearts On Fire’ that caught the attention of Richard Elliot who included it on his release Power Of Suggestion. When Elliot moved on from his spell with Tower of Power he recommended Grove as his replacement. He remained with them for about four years while continuing to tour with various major acts.

Following this experience, he freelanced, reverting to session work and providing backing for such artists as Joe Cocker, The Eurythmics, The Gap Band, Huey Lewis and the News, Elton John, Bonnie Raitt and Aaron Neville. In 1991 he appeared on Richard Marx’s top 20 pop and #1 adult contemporary hit ‘Keep Coming Back’. It is interesting to note that Grove succeeded Dave Koz as the saxophonist in Marx’s touring band.

EugeGroove_cruise04_2.jpgIt was at the end of the nineties that Grove developed the persona of Euge Groove. He had struck up a writing and producing partnership with Mike Egizi and together they compiled a set of tracks. At first they experienced real difficulty generating any interest from record companies and sought the help of Paul Brown. He was interested but fully committed to other projects. In the interim period Euge Groove decided to go for it and launch his music via mp3.com. This approach took off in a major way and, as he peeked at 2000 hits a day, climbed to number one in the site’s jazz chart and number six in the entire site, Paul Brown finally became available.

Brown mixed eight tracks and offered them up to the industry. Warner Jazz quickly picked up on the project and a deal was signed. His debut album on Warner Bros. Records, in May 2000, was Euge Groove. When Euge stepped out for the WHSJC Tuesday show, with the ship anchored in St Thomas, US Virgin Islands, partly as a scheduled stop and partly to facilitate the arrival and departure of Dave Koz who flew in to play the show, it was a track from that first album that he played, ‘Another Sad Love Song’, the Babyface / Simmons composition that was a huge hit for Toni Braxton in 1993. Predictably it got the crowd all singing along. The year 2000 also found Euge touring with Tina Turner’s backing band. His second album, Playdate, followed in 2002.

Euge Grooves main slot on the WHSJC was the late show on the Monday and the early show on the Thursday where he majored on selections from Playdate and his latest album to date, the 2004 Livin Large. This latter release was a standout of the year with a faultless line up of tracks. Still he was not done and when Rick Braun finally made it off his sickbed to play the Friday night late show there was Euge Groove once more to duet with him on the Bill Withers classic ‘Use Me’. As they had been throughout the week, whenever Euge walked on stage, the audience were singing all over again.

To make the WHSJC, Euge Groove had actually taken a break from touring with Joe Cocker. That break was a short one as only two days after arrival back in Fort Lauderdale he was on the road again, this time in Tallahassee, FL, with the Joe Cocker Heart & Soul Tour where he opens the show and performs with Cocker. That tour will play thirty more dates between then and March 19 when it concludes at the Orleans, in Las Vegas NV. With the stage presence that Euge Groove possesses he will always be in demand on the live stage.

Read more about the Warren Hill Smooth Jazz Cruise 2005 right here in the coming days and weeks.

Do you have any comments on what you have found in this months Secret Garden? Do you have a favorite ‘Smooth Soul Survivor’ that you would enjoy being featured in a future edition? If so please contact the Smooth Jazz Vibes Guest Book or e-mail me on DenisPoole2000@Yahoo.com.

Read more about the cruise at smooth-jazz.de.

Posted by Denis Poole at January 28, 2005 3:57 PM