This band describes itself as “Soul Jazz’s Missing Link,” and that’s not too far off the mark. On first listen, I thought to myself “are these some outtakes of 70s Crusaders sessions?” You’ve got some rich an d punctuated horns, absolutely irresistible riffs with perfectly timed back beats, and bass lines supplied by Travis Carlton that would make Barry White smile.
Most of the tunes are composed by Rhode rider Bill Steinway and tenor saxist Paulie Cerra, with “Sweetness” and “They Know It All” begging for someone like Tony Joe White to grab the microphone. To keep things even more bonafide, Larry Carlton, Robben Ford and Kirk Fletcher bring their axes and sit in for some tasty solos on “Cornell,” “The Know It All” and “H-Town Hipster” respectively, wile Rickey Peterson warms up the Leslies for a hip B3 solo on “”Memphis 40 oz Hang.” You want your toes to tap and your Bass Weejuns to shuffle, you’re gonna grab for this one.
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All About Jazz
Built around the core of saxophonist Paulie Cerra, keyboardist Billy Steinway and bassist Travis Carlton (son of legendary guitarist Larry Carlton), Groove Legacy is just as much a sound and feel as it is this band and the title of their eponymous debut. Although they've collectively played with everyone from Al Green through Stevie Wonder to Carrie Underwood, this debut shares the trio's mutual passion for the sound of 1970s jazz-funk—Creed Taylor's seamless, sparkling productions for CTI Records, The Meters, Stuff, and especially The Crusaders.
"Ever since I had the pleasure of working with The Crusaders, I fell in love with the tenor and trombone melody blend," Steinway explains. "I can't think of a better group of musicians than Groove Legacy to recapture that sound—also putting a fresh spin on instrumental music." Highlighted by contributions from trombonists Andrew Lippman and Lee Thornberg, drummer Lemar Carter, plus several guitarists, Groove Legacy honors and consolidates this sound but keeps it moving forward, too.
"Odd Couple" is only one example of Groove Legacy's mastery of the classic Crusaders sound: Bright and sharp yet a little bit funky and round (and more than a little soulful around the edges), with the combined horns singing as a single voice; Ceara's tenor sounds as big as Texas and cuts as sharp as a cowboy's spurs while bassist Carlton and drummer Carter keep its rhythm rolling and tumbling.
Cerra and Travis Carlton co-wrote "Cornell" to feature Larry Carlton (Travis' dad) surfing on a tune assumedly written to honor legendary groove guitarist Cornell Dupree, who held down the guitar chair in Stuff. While the rhythm section gently lays down a Memphis groove, like the instrumental track behind a lost Al Green single, Papa Carlton's guitar dominates this piece with his twangy and tangy tone. Next comes "The Know It All," which featured guitarist Robben Ford slashes through in a more spindly and sharp, Albert King blues-rock style.
The sound of Memphis also comes through the rhythm, sound and feel of "Memphis 40 oz. Hang," a leisurely groove that sounds cut straight from a Stax Records session by Booker T. & the MGs with The Memphis Horns, and which pours nicely, with a sharp, robust body and creamy, foamy head.
Frank Malfitano's stylish liner notes describe Groove Legacy as, "It's the 'If Stuff and the Crusaders had a baby' band." There's no better way to say it.
Vintage Guitar Magazine
Groove Legacy is a group of L.A. musicians who have banded together to make an album in the soul/jazz/funk vein that harkens back to the ’70s, but still sounds vibrant and current. It was all started by saxophonist Paul Cerra, keyboardist Bill Steinway, and bassist Travis Carlton. They’ve recruited some fine horn players and two guitarists that play wonderfully throughout – Kirk Fletcher and Sam Meek. Two famous guitar guests are also featured on separate cuts – Robben Ford and Travis’ dad, Larry.
A listen to the entire record will immediately bring to mind albums by the Crusaders. Sometimes it’s the subtle R&B of “Cornell,” featuring Larry Carlton, or the in-your-face funkiness of “Sweetness” with Fletcher’s melodic yet gritty solo. Meek gets his chance to shine on the jazzy blues of “47 Degree Angle.” And guest Ford, as you’d expect, is tasty and full of surprise licks on the fusion of “The Know It All.”
A tip of the cap to Travis Carlton who holds down the bottom beautifully throughout – and then lays down solos on several songs that tear the roof off.