Senor Groove captures the sound of an iconic place on “Little Havana”

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Senor Groove is a jazz trio consisting of brothers Tim Smith and Roddy Smith, along with Marcelo Perez. With Roddy on guitar, Tim on bass and Perez on drums, the trio works with an ensemble of other musicians to bring the feel of Little Havana to life. The songs are a mix of jazz styles and they have a feel that shows the musicians’ ability to play well together. Released on Feb. 20, 2019, “Little Havana’s” sense of style is exemplified on the title track and “Linville Falls.”

About Senor Groove

The Smith brothers grew up in a musical family. They were inspired by Jimi Hendrix and the Allman Brothers. Eventually, Tim and Roddy branched out into composing in addition to playing. Together, they formed the Mr. Groove Band. The band forged a successful relationship with ZOHO record label. Mr. Groove was the backing band and producers for iconic, soulful rock singer Bonnie Bramlett’s “Roots, Blues and Jazz” album. That album would become one of ZOHO’s biggest sellers.

After 30 years as a studio musician and producer, Tim became an educator. Having earned an undergraduate degree from the University of Miami, Smith was (historically) in the same company as such icons as Pat Metheny and Bruce Hornsby, as he had practiced in the same rooms that they had. In addition, Tim had played alongside Jaco Pastorius.

As an adult, Roddy Smith became a virtuoso guitarist based in Nashville. He and Tim took on a second recording with ZOHO in 2007 with saxophonist Boots Randolph’s “A Whole New Ballgame.” Randolph was known for his side work with such luminaries as Roy Orbison and Elvis Presley. The Smiths would also work on “Rocket 88 – – Tribute to Ike Turner,” in 2009 and “Tribute to JJ Cale” in 2010.

Tim met Marcelo Perez in 2014 while serving as a professor at the University of Miami. Perez, originally from San Francisco, was found to be a drummer that Tim clicked with and with whom he could establish a solid “pocket and groove” between bass and drums.

In its latest form, Tim and Roddy’s band is called Senor Groove. While the Smith brothers and Perez form the foundation of the group, they are accompanied by Martin Berjerano on piano and Murph Aucamp on percussion, along with a host of others, including a vocalist, several horn players, synth players and a small ensemble of violinists, cellists and a viola player.

“Little Havana” is a collection of seven tracks–six originals and one classic. The sound is smooth and energetic, but also the word “compact” comes to mind.

Sound of “Little Havana” by Senor Groove

The title track is laidback in a way that reminds some listeners of late 1970s pop jazz. The song sounds as if it is being played in layers. A driving, but not overwhelming bass supports the various soundscapes. Flute, bass clarinet and trumpet all shine on this tune. Percussion provides a rounded, hollow sound on top of which the piano, woodwinds and trumpet play motifs that begin to sound familiar after the first time they are heard. The song sounds as if it has ending on an energetic drum beat, but it starts over again in a frenzied swirl of Latin rhythms. If the first part could be called drowsy the second part is the opposite of that. The flute line is expressive and dizzying and it continues even as the song fades out.

“Linville Falls” is expressive and bright. The song was originally a bluegrass original and it retains some of that genre’s feel. However, in this version, the overall soundscape is driven by softly clacking drums that do not overwhelm the song with their volume. A persistent bassline is a nuanced feature. There is a lot of movement in this song. All of the soundscape contributes to a danceable tune. Because of the song’s arrangement, when the trumpet showcase appears, it completely makes sense.

“Little Havana” is a compact album with big sounds and ideas that carry out well its thematic focus.

 

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Dodie Miller-Gould is a native of Fort Wayne, Indiana who lives in New York City where she studies creative nonfiction at Columbia University. She has BA and MA degrees in English from Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne, and an MFA in Fiction from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Her research interests include popular music and culture, 1920s jazz, and blues, confessional poetry, and the rhetoric of fiction. She has presented at numerous conferences in rhetoric and composition, and creative writing. Her creative works have appeared in Tenth Muse, Apostrophe, The Flying Island, Scavenger's Newsletter and elsewhere. She has won university-based awards for creative work and literary criticism.

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