A short review on the groovaliciousness that went down at The Wetlands last night. Good crowd... not too crowded. It's amazing in a city with umpmillion people that only a few hundred are "smart" enough to catch a show like this.

Masters of Groove has to be the MOST appropriate band name I have ever heard because they truly are the masters. Pretty Purdie on the drums was one of the best groove drummers I have heard and between him and Ruben Wilson the show was stellar. Started off a little slow, I thought, with what sounded to me like a run-of-the-mill groove jazz tune, nothing special and I'd even call Grant Green Jr's work on it underwhelming. The second song started off mellow but rose and fell beautifully as Purdie guided each member's solo from beginning to end. This is where things started to warm up but by the third song - a funked out celebration of the James Bond Theme Song - the joint was a-jumping. The interpretation on the theme and then losing themselves and returning each time was just brilliant. A slow bluesy tune in three followed that featured some of the best individual solos of the night, particularly from Green. The next song was a wild, happy tune that really meshed the band well and again was driven primarily by the deft drum work of Purdie. Finally they appeased the crowd's eagerness to get down with the funkiest feature of the night - it was either a cover of or a jam based on what I thought was James Brown's Sex Machine, but I could be wrong. The band showed that it could really do it all in terms of the groove/funk spectrum and had the crowd shaking their booties and hooting for more. These guys still got it and probably always have and will.

With our money's worth already had by the time the opening set was over, I settled in for an expectation-free set from Lettuce, Eric Krasno's old band reunited for their first of a month-long residency at The Wetlands. These guys wasted no time getting it on and just picked up where the Masters left off. Solid funky instrumental work from top to bottom although I can't comment too much more than that. Herbie Hancock's best work is certainly the primary influence of this band and they even treated us with a Herbie cover.

I will expound a bit more on the finale of the first set (we didn't stick around for the second) - one of the best versions of Let The Music Take Your Mind I have ever heard, recorded or live. They call up the drummer from The Squad as well as DJ Logic to head up the set finish. They get into the groove hardcore and I am just flailing in glee - it's one of my favorite tunes. Grant Green Jr. (who's father's version on Alive is kick ass, btw!) appears on the side of the stage (guitar in hand) and Krasno beckons him to come up there and join in what had already been quite a sick mesh of get-down-to-it jamming with DJ Logic's brand of scratch-a-rific rhythms. The Squad's drummer picked up the intensity as well, noticably more aggressive than the previous drummer, really driving the song hard.

So Green gets on stage but has no where to plug in, so Krasno unplugs and let's him take his position on stage rendering Eric to spectator for the rest of the set. After getting set up and turned up Green took over in a way he had not exhibited in the opening set and the band followed extending the jams certainly beyond what they had expected. And just when it seemed it could not get any better Ekene slithered onto the stage and added vocals to an intended instrumental version which just put the whole thing over the top. And just when the crowd was to the hilt and ready for the thing to come to an end, the drummer and DJ Logic shift the finale into a percussive battle leaving the musicians on stage bobbing their heads patiently as the drumming went on and on. He was pounding the drums with purposeful strength - crazy aggressive energy. Good stuff, but a little too long and awkward as minutes later they managed a half-assed ending to a wild, killer set-ender. Certainly wish I could have stayed for more, but there are 3 more Wednesdays with 3 more line-ups of excellent openers and special guests. Should be quite a time.

Aaron Stein
JamBase New York Correspondent
Go See Live Music!

[Published on: 1/4/01]

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