Album Review: TC & The Groove Family – ‘We Have Each Other’ : UK Nu-jazz collective forge ahead with a powerful, passionate EP.

The Breakdown

This is prime UK nu-jazz at its articulate, flexible, unpretentious, genre fluid best.
Bridge The Gap 8.8

It’s been a while since we’ve heard from TC & The Groove Family but you can’t keep a good collective down. Led by drummer Tim Cook (TC) and based around players who originally crossed paths in Leeds, the band’s 2022 debut ‘First Home’ (reviewed in BSM HERE ) made a sizeable dent in the listening schedules. Here was a young jazz ensemble with a rootsy, dance-centric outlook, diving into the UK scene with their afrobeat directness and hip-hop fluidity.

Since that time their geographies have shifted as people moved on and moved out but the TC & the Groove Family spirit has remained intact. To prove that point we now have the pulsating new EP ‘We Have Each Other’, out via Bridge The Gap. With core members still contributing, Tom Excell (of Nubiyan Twist/Onipa) again producing and Sheffield based rap fusionist Franz Von returning on vocals and lyrical messaging, it might suggest the band’s new music is consolidating, but that’s not the full story. This new EP sees The Family pushing with a harder musical edge to explore and expose the upheavals of our day to day.

Opening track Stand Strong highlights such progression. A popping bass line with a fine Cymande flow, grip tight brass squeezes and drums rolling with Tony Allen-esque purpose are the foundation but from here the group gear things up. Hannah Mae’s roaring sax solo, those searing Steely Dan-ish guitar fills and Franz Von’s assertive rhymes capture the band’s new urgency. As the MC calls out ‘Stand Firm! Stand Strong!’ you need no more convincing.

Similar spikey, jabbing, Franz Von poetics bring a vocal directness to the dub intensity of Here, Now. The track may open with jangling guitars and end of the night horns but it soon sweeps between a deep slow skank and a soundtrack rich expanse. There are echoes of Barry Adamson noire in places but Max Purcell-Burrows earthy trombone rumble, Nicole Raymond’s incisive turntable quips plus the post-rock resonance of the Scott and Sayers’ guitar shadings, emphasise the Groove Family-ness of the music here. This time around the band seem more than ever to be forging their own distinctive personality.

That confidence in their collective gives the only instrumental on the EP, We Have Each Other, a big band swagger. From scuttling, locomotive afrobeat plus tempo fest of percussive chocks and timbale rimshots to the mid-section breather of Spanish guitar plucks it’s a cut with bundles of defiant energy. As the tune throttles towards its giddy close, the inventive scratching scat from Raymond (a.k.a Nik Nak) pushes the band leftfield and out-there. Merging their jazz grooves with this quirky hip hop experimentalism distinguishes TC & The Groove Family and suggests they should soon be nestling alongside other boundary pushing ensembles such as Kokoroko or Nerija.

Following on from the approach they took on their debut album, the band again look to extend their dynamic with other voices. This time around they have collaborated with Nubiyan Twist’s vocalist Aziza Jaye and Birmingham based, rapping wordsmith SANITY. Perhaps the introduction to Jaye’s soulful power came via the EP’s producer and Nubyan Twist’s leader Tom Excell but whatever the route, her contribution on Blessed adds another emotional dimension to the track’s muscular agitation. A complex Kamasi -scale arrangement that punches out from the Defunkt corner finds resolution in Jaye’s unflustered clarity as she asserts “You look so much better when you do you.”

The hook up with SANITY on the closing track Wile Out is similarly inspired, the song projecting the EP into even more daring diversions. There’s a dipsy Brainfeeder intro before the tune effortlessly morphs Franz Von’s brimstone gravity with SANITY’s clipped jungle articulation. Her rhymes have a succinct ring to them, “Made to feel inadequate but really you’re ahead of that/You should be a syllabus not finding what you’re better at” is one of many which sticks. Here the narrative flow between the vocal pairing is faultless, fuelled as elsewhere by Tom Cook’s unfailing, kaleidoscopic rhythmic agility.

We Have Each Other‘ feels like the core players, now that their inseparable student days in the Leeds underground club scene are long gone, have relished taking the next step together. This is prime UK nu-jazz at its articulate, flexible, unpretentious, genre fluid best.

Get your copy of ‘We Have Each Other‘ by TC & The Groove Family from your local record store or direct from the group’s Bandcamp page HERE

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