A bout of homesickness during a world tour stirs strong emotions for Sunday Morning, one of the saxophonist’s best CDs ever
By Brian Soergel
Most clichés are founded in fact, and maybe none so much as this one: It can be lonely for a musician on the road. But with decreasing CD sales a fact of life for 99 percent of today's musicians, it's vital they heed the road's beckoning call to take their music to the world.
Touring has been like breathing for Euge Groove going on more than two decades. Before he embarked on a solo career, the smooth jazz saxophonist performed with the Tower of Power horn section from 1988 to 1992, later also touring for extended times with Richard Marx, Joe Cocker and Eros Ramazzotti. Groove gladly took a high-profile gig with Tina Turner in 2000, which is why the singer asked him to join her for a worldwide gig beginning in 2008 marking her 50th anniversary of touring. Though Groove thought he had sworn off world tours for good, he found it hard to say no to Turner and the exposure, to say nothing of the paycheck.
As the tour stretched into 2009, however, it began to wear on him. So many buses. So many plane rides. He missed his wife of 20 years, Bane, and their three children. But while homesickness is something pretty much everyone goes through at some point, Groove's bout led to an amazing result:Sunday Morning, his latest CD and undoubtedly one of his best.
“My latest CD is a little mellower and reflects where my head space was,” Groove said. “I wrote most of it on the road with Tina when I was really quite homesick. A lot of my emotion got into the songs when I wrote them. Some of it can be melancholy and some of it upbeat and funky, which is the mood I needed at that time to kind of pull through it all.”
Sunday Morning was released late last year and features 10 original songs, including the title track, another in a long line of Groove's radio hits.
Groove explains the CD's title: “If I could have just gone home for a day when I was on the tour in Europe, that would be the day, Sunday morning. It's the most peaceful time anywhere. You wake up, it's a lazy day, make coffee, read the newspaper, get very spiritual inside yourself and reflect on the week that just passed and the week you're about to embrace. I just love Sunday mornings.”
The title track typifies Groove's goal for the CD. “It has these really pretty chords that go through a smooth jazz tempo––real solid like a big, fat Cadillac cruising down the road,” he said. “And then you get this spiritual moment where the hook comes around and it's straight-up church. I tried to bridge that gospel side with the smooth jazz side, and that song typified that.”
Another song, “The Gospel Truth,” took it even further. “I wrote that during one of my darkest moments of being away in Europe,” Groove said. “I was so ridiculously homesick; I was literally down on my knees begging God to help me get through this, to make it through this tour and get back to my family.”
So Groove did what any musician would do when confronted with strong emotions. “I sat down and crafted that song, and it was huge emotional outlet for me. When I later went to the studio to record it, I didn't say much. I kept really mellow. It was a huge emotional outlet burying myself in that song.”
“The Gospel Truth” is another of Groove's killer ballads, joining the ranks of “Last Song” from his self-titled 2000 debut and “Slow Jam” from 2007's Born 2 Groove.
“I love ballads,” he says. “I'd do a whole show of them if the audience would stay awake. These last couple of power ballads I've done have been real emotional for me; I get physical reactions when performing them. I know that sounds really corny, but it's true. 'Slow Jam,' that was the sax I did on the demo. I had the melody in my head and tried on many occasions to capture that sound. But I couldn't do it. When I listened back to the demo, I knew there was an emotional performance I could never recapture.”
Sunday Morning is once again produced by Groove's close friend, the acknowledged best in smooth jazz: Paul Brown. Groove explains why Brown is the go-to guy for so many. “He's an amazing engineer. The overall sound structure, they way he puts things together, hands down the best. On the production side personality comes in because he's cool and calm––he never gets frazzled or upset––and knows what to focus on. Sometimes I'll get caught up with little things and miss the big picture. He's good at saying, ‘Don't touch this anymore, the big picture is perfect. If you start messing with these little things, you'll mess it up.’”
The new CD features one of Groove's trademarks––the stacking, or layering, of sax sounds. That goes back to the pop vocal songs he played on in the 1980s as a session player (one of the biggest hits he was involved in was “Seasons Change,” a No. 1 song from Expose’ in 1987).**
**This complete story can be found in the April issue of Smooth Jazz News. Pick up your free copy at our radio station affiliates (see radio station page for listings), various concerts, festivals and select Southern California outlets. Or you can subscribe and receive 11 issues of Smooth Jazz News per year, mailed monthly (except January), for $35. Click here to subscribe online today.
For more information on Euge Groove, visit www.eugegroove.com.
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