Chuck Redd – Groove City

by | Apr 17, 2019 | Jazz CD Reviews | 0 comments

Chuck Redd – Groove City – [TrackList follows] – self-released, 63:56 [3/1/19] ****:

Jazz drummer and vibraphonist Chuck Redd has been around the jazz block more than a few times. Redd began touring and recording when he joined the Charlie Byrd Trio in 1981; in the 1990s he worked with Ken Peplowski; later he became a member of the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra; and he is currently on the faculty of the University of Maryland School of Music. Redd has five previous albums as a leader. His newest is the mightily swinging, 63-minute Groove City, a quintet project which mixes standards, covers and Redd originals. The tight arrangements blend post-bop, a bit of soul jazz, Latin jazz and other winning jazz styles. The album name combines titles of two tunes, “The Great City” and “A Groove for Gail.”

On Groove City, Redd concentrates on vibes and is backed by a dynamic band: keyboardist John DiMartino (Fender Rhodes, acoustic piano); bassist Nicki Parrot (her credits include John Tropea and David Spinozza; she’s also a gifted vocalist); drummer Lewis Nash (his extensive discography includes credits on over 400 records); and tenor saxophonist Jerry Weldon (he’s performed in the Lionel Hampton Orchestra and the Harry Connick, Jr. big band; and subsequently played with organists Jack McDuff, Jimmy McGriff and Joey DeFrancesco).

The group kicks up the tempo on the opening tune, Curtis Lewis’ “The Great City,” which has been done by Joe Williams, Nancy Wilson and Les McCann. Redd was influenced by Shirley Horn’s version (see Shirley Horn with Horns, 1963). While Horn’s adaptation tilted toward pop jazz terrain, Redd wisely and thoroughly maintains a jazzier aspect. Much personal history flits through the CD’s musical program. Redd frequently performed with pianist Monty Alexander. The lengthiest cut is a moody translation of Alexander’s “Renewal.” Alexander often gave “Renewal” a hymnal or gospel quality. Redd opts for a late-night vibe, less Sunday morning and more Saturday night. The fivesome sparkles on “Renewal” with notable contributions from Redd, DiMartino on acoustic piano, Parrott on stand-up bass and Nash sustaining a head-nodding rhythm. Another Alexander composition is “Regulator,” which was one of Alexander’s fun jazz/reggae mash-ups. Redd downplays the island rhythmic sizzle found on Alexander’s original take, focusing instead on solid jazz groove. If this doesn’t get someone’s fingers snapping, then nothing will.

Portrait Chuck Redd

Chuck Redd

Byrd’s impact on Redd is heard on a reworking of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Wave,” which is reconfigured as “Tide.” Parrott’s ethereal, wordless vocalizing adds weight to this charming Latin jazz number where Redd and DiMartino beautifully intermingle. Peplowski’s friendship with Redd was the reason Redd decided to do a slow, slightly Tiki-esque interpretation of Coleman’s “Lonely Woman.” Redd first recorded “Lonely Woman” during a Peplowski studio date in 1996. While Nash keeps a ticking rhythm going, Redd and DiMartino swap melodic lines and duet with superb ease and sophistication. Redd states, “I’ve recently been listening to Freda Payne’s gorgeous version from the late 60s, so we used the bridge chords from that record.” Other memorable cuts include a notched take of Thelonious Monk’s “Evidence,” highlighted by Weldon’s amiable tenor sax; and a delightful vibes/piano duo arrangement of Billy Strayhorn’s “A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing,” where Redd solos with impeccable intention while DiMartino supplies supple support.

Redd’s two compositions fit seamlessly into the album’s sensibility. The aptly-titled “A Groove for Gail” was penned as a tribute to Redd’s wife. Redd says the tune was inspired by her “smile, spirit and love for any music that makes her want to move. “A Groove for Gail” commences with an RnB-tinted tendency and then swings hard and fast, accentuated by Nash’s purposeful drumming and DiMartino’s soulful Fender Rhodes. Redd’s second original is the mid-tempo, straightforward blues track, “Blues in the Shedd,” which Redd dedicated to one of his homes away from home, the Shedd Institute for the Arts in Eugene, Oregon. Redd explains, “On the head, I was feeling the spirit of Milt Jackson and Cedar Walton’s groups. They were always grooving, and they always appeared to be genuinely grateful to be there.” Groove City may not be a real location found on a map or with GPS coordinates. But one listen to Chuck Redd’s Groove City and you’ll find yourself transported to a place bursting with vim, vivacity and verve.

Chuck Redd – vibes, percussion, finger snaps (tracks 1, 5, 10); John DiMartino – piano, Fender Rhodes; Nicki Parrot – bass; Lewis Nash – drums; Jerry Weldon – tenor saxophone

The Great City
A Groove for Gail
Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Cryin’
All or Nothing at All
A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing
Lonely Woman
Blues in the Shedd

—Doug Simpson


Music and more information at Chuck Redd’s Website.




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