Album Review: TC & The Groove Family – ‘First Home’: global beat today-jazz with a collective spirit.

The Breakdown

A record with more than a punchy range of influences, there’s a refreshingly clear consensus about where the music is heading - a new holistic UK jazz sound with a thrilling future.
Worm Discs 8.7

Well Worm Discs may have started out as an outpost for Bristol-centric nu- jazz expressionism (Snazzback Run Logan Run, Dun Dun Dun, the luscious ‘New Horizons’ compilation album etc.) but the signs are that this very particular underground is working its way beyond the wild west. There’s been excursions to Glasgow with Corto Alto’s soul breakdowns plus Akui’s rhythm-addled Doom Jazz and now comes a swerve back down to the North-West to take in TC & The Groove Family. Pulled together by drummer/percussionist Tim Cook and nurtured on eclectic and electric Leeds scene, this bunch of jazzers, turntablists and tempo setters’ debut album ‘First Home’ is available on the label from June 10th.

Taking a today-jazz starting point but stirring things up with a whirl of afrobeat, funk, latin fusion, dub, jungle and post rock heft, the ten piece make for a tight collegiate unit. That’s not surprising as most of the band met as itinerants who landed up at Leeds Music College and have been integrating their reference points as The Groove Family ever since. So in some ways ‘First Home’ casts a look back over the collective’s starting points while stepping out with a sound which has a thrilling future.

Although the record weighs in with a punchy range of influences, there’s still a refreshingly clear consensus about where the music is heading. Some of that may come from the tuned-in contribution of Nubiyan Twist’s Tom Excell as producer but you sense the coherence is mainly down to to the band really knowing who they are. ‘First Home’ has a strong identity, instrumentally powerful and dynamic but also rooted in exploring the possibilities of song.

Want proof? Then start with the three tracks featuring the irrepressible Pariss Elektra on vocals. The sultry ‘Duende’ breezes between a nimble funk slide, well placed blasts of horn/guitar power chord unison and trumpeter Grifton Forbes-Amos’s sky-bound solo but it’s the singer who is at the core, confidently gliding along the tune’s spiritual jazz slipstream. In contrast ‘Sleeping Lions’ finds the group easing into a nu-soul vibe, bringing the finesse and grace of their playing forwards to realise a gorgeous lilting love song. Elektra’s melting “I’m in another world with you” vocal entry and the silkily braided horn arrangement just ooze class. Then there’s the cathartic ‘Bossfighter’ where band and singer stomp into agit-jazz territory and defiantly claim it with pulsating drive and tuned aggression. A song that swerves brazenly from pumping horn riffs and stampeding carnival rhythms to razor sharp vocal rhymes, it’s focused, direct and politically sharp. A drill down on the ‘hostile environment’ of a bullying government, ‘Bossfighter’ could only come from a band with some serious intent.

That same taut energy surges through ‘Weh Dem A Do?’, a call for solidarity and action, where K.O.G. MC Franz Von raps with a syncopated flow, skipping around the tense cross-rhythms whipped up by TC himself and percussionist Paolo Mezzoni. How you merge Ethio-jazz funk currents with crunching guitar reverberations in a dub infused torrent and still end up with such unity is really TC & The Groove Family’s secret.

Elsewhere in the locker, Latin leanings shimmy into the sound-space. ‘Tio’ takes horn assisted samba rhythms on some journey, through a wild Batucada breakwater and onto a more widescreen destination. The lithesome guitar exchanges of Nath Sayers and Mikey Scott add urgency to this increasingly heady chase. Less expansive but equally rewarding ‘Dueno’ wraps itself in a warm bundle of smouldering horns and schmoozes effortlessly.

No doubt for all their eclecticism and singular invention, TC & The Groove Family will still get marshalled under the convenient UK nu-jazz banner but there the assumptions should end. ‘Sucker punch’ may have all the virtuosic twists and turns required but really The Groove Family pulse with the immediacy of a street marching band, rootsy, welcoming and bound by a team spirit. The bustling, homely closer ‘Clipston Parade’ underlines the holistic impact that this collective can achieve. Skuttling along to a sinewy afro-beat with swirling loops imagining a sidewalk soundtrack, the whole band hover in anticipation until Max Purcell Burrows’ pivotal trombone goads them up and beyond.

If you do call in on TC & The Groove Family’s ‘First Home’ you’ll find a group that knows what’s going to happen before it happens, where familiarity still inspires and where unity remains a positive. Catch the feeling while you can…

Get your copy of ‘First Home’ by TC & The Groove Family from your local record store or direct from:

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