The central dilemma for all funk/jazz/improv bands: how can we keep the dancers dancing and the listeners listening all at the same time? What's the right ratio of brain-work to butt-shake? Thankfully, Boston-based quartet Groove Trust has found the ideal recipe for an interesting sound that keeps that its audience moving.

The five original instrumentals on the band's just-released disc, Live at the Lion's Den, showcases this dynamic. On drums, Brian Bacheller lays down a relentless fatback beat, over which Jamie Bannister plays melodic, jazz-influenced bass lines that never stray far from the central groove. During the extended jam sections, the duo avoids the habit of creating a simple loop as a backbone for long solos; they continually evolve their sound while hitting unique and refreshing changes. Disco pops up expectedly, goes Latin for a moment, then returns to classic funk, all within a few measures. The transitions occur seamlessly and the band never drops a beat.

Also in Groove Trust are guitarist Jamie Bacheller and harmonica player Mike Cucchi, whose intertwining melodies add a sometimes haunting, sometimes chaotic flourish over the Bacheller/Bannister foundation. Bacheller's guitar playing floats from lead to rhythm playing in an instant, and his solos spur Groove Trust on to its most intense moments, especially on the track "Oil Spill."

Most remarkable is Mike Cucchi's ability to transform his harmonica to any instrument. On "Oil Spill," it becomes a 70's era Fender keyboard, dropping a hypnotic texture of delay over the big-booty bass line, while on "Smile Fool" it assumes rhythm duties as a Shaftesque wah-wah guitar. But Cucchi also employs the classic blues harp sounds, and his soloing proves there's more in his bag of tricks than just effects pedals.

The disc's raw recording style, which includes onstage banter, grunts of concentration, and cheering, captures the excitement and unstoppable energy of this group. If their performances are consistent with what is documented here, a Groove Trust show is guaranteed to be a good time.

David Brodie
JamBase | Boston
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[Published on: 10/24/03]

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