Too Blue Lou and the Groove – The Birth of Hip Bop – Jazzheads JH1157, 58:11 ***1/2:
(Lou Montelione – leader, keyboards, vocals (3,5,7); Eric Huff – alto, soprano sax; Daisuke Abe – guitar; Roy Weinberger – drums; Mike Aidoo – rap vocals (1,7))
Though billed as a new thing, hip bop, so-called, sounds to these ears pretty much like standard deep-in-the-pocket jazz funk. Yes, there’s a dollop of rap, hip-hop, and a bit of harder than usual smooth jazz and a nod to more mainstream jazz, but nothing that different from what’s been done by Roy Hargrove’s RH Factor, Christian Scott, or Russell Gunn.
One thing that makes this band stand out is Tokyo-born and NY-based guitarist Daisuke Abe. Demonstrating controlled intensity throughout, he livens things up whenever he gets a chance to cut loose. He’s definitely someone to watch. Also, check out his debut disc, On My Way Back Home. The other players know how to establish and maintain deep grooves, but don’t get much chance to strut their stuff. But killer soloing’s not what this group is all about. Instead, they aim for a tight ensemble sound perhaps best demonstrated by their grooved-out approach to the Miles Davis classics, “Nardis,” with its Middle East funk vibe, and “Blue in Green.” To their credit, they nicely accomplish their goal of purveying danceable if somewhat forgettable music, as several song titles (“Groove One for Fun” and “Never Gonna Give Up) indicate.
TrackList: Never Gonna Give Up, Nardis, Hip Bop and Scrappy, Groove One for Fun, That Situation, Stella by Starlight, Ode to Knee Deep, Blue in Green
– Jan P. Dennis