Video For The Groove Project's "To Be a Bird"...
Following the ever-evolving creative muses of multi-talented, Singapore based composer, producer, guitarist and creative visionary Arun Shnoy has been a fascinating yet slightly maddening challenge these past few years.
Coming out of seemingly nowhere to win a Grammy nomination (Best Instrumental Pop Album) for his 2012 debut Rumbadoodle, Shenoy has recorded under numerous group names with different sonic trajectories that have made him a bit difficult to pin down. His explosive, exotic, high concept instrumental collection A Stagey Bank Affair – which I chose as my Jazziz Critic’s Pick Best Album of the Year – was recorded under Arun Shenoy & The Groove Project.
He followed that with the vocal acoustic work “The Unplugged Songwriter Sessions,” attributed to Arun Shenoy & The Maverick Express. This kind of discography may sound a bit scattered, but it's reflective of a brilliant, multi-faceted creative mind, pushed relentlessly by a restless spirit. Name shifts aside, it’s some of the most compelling, heartfelt and life affirming music I’ve ever heard.
Now, for Shenoy’s equally infectious, soulful and dynamic next phase – a funk driven smooth jazz-oriented project dedicated to mankind’s fascination with flying - he has returned to a streamlined “The Groove Project,” complete with a new high energy, groove intensive (naturally) eight-man lineup produced, co-written and co-arranged by Matthew Shell & Arun Shenoy, and prominently featuring pianist Lonnie Park and saxophonist Marcus Mitchell.
The age of streaming – and seemingly shorter consumer attention spans – allows indie artists to take creative license with how they roll out music. This time, rather than release a full album at once, Shenoy (leading The Groove Project) is whetting our appetite for the ultimate full collection one enticing single at a time.
The inspiration for the buoyant, feisty and fun-spirited electric guitar and sax driven lead single “Pilot” came from a popular quote by author and speaker Michael Althusser: “The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot.” Great food for thought as our spirits are cast aloft starting with Shenoy’s dual electric/rhythm guitar jangling intro and the subsequent burst of urban jazz magic that follows. With breezy wordless vocals adding a deeper human touch and a punchy melody line by Mitchell, the track is in the pocket slammin’ smooth jazz all the way. But it goes beyond that when guest guitarist Samituru lets loose (and yep, takes flight) with some inventive electric soloing.
The philosophical concept behind the second single, the much more laid back, easy flowing, sax and silky wordless vocal based mid-tempo ballad, is a quote from Leonardo Da Vinci, who of course lived centuries before airplanes so maybe was talking from a spiritual/metaphorical standpoint when he said: “Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.” Closer to earth, Samituru again transcends the usual fare in this genre with his gritty and inventive guitar soloing.
Smooth jazz artists aren’t generally known for sharing deeper life philosophies, so part of the magical world The Groove Project creates this time is tied to those quotes. This one, a whimsical quip tied to the most recently released third single “To Be a Bird,” is by Neil Armstrong – who knew a little bit more about flight than the rest of us: “Gliders, sailplanes, they are wonderful flying machines. It’s the closest you can come to being a bird.” The tune is a mid-tempo, easy funk delight, matching the flow of breezy vocalizing with Mitchell’s intense, searing, improvisation rich saxophone expressions. In this case, Samituru’s shimmering guitar work is the cool complement to his saxophonist’s wild emotion.
Gosh, the slowly building flight project is pretty engaging and irresistible to this point – so, what’s next for The Groove Project? Looks like we’re in for a new single every month on the way towards a full-length album next summer – and that’s something to be grateful for as we cap the current decade. By sheer coincidence (or is it?) the first three singles all clock in at 4:19. Shenoy riffs on this, teasing us: “Perhaps the 19th of April is going to prove auspicious for us as a band and individuals. Only time will tell…” That’s his sly way of saying, Sinatra style…”Come fly with me, come fly let’s fly away…”
For more information about The Groove Project, please visit: https://narked.com/artists/the-groove-project/
To stream "First Flight":
To stream "Pilot":