Review: Groovexpress, Live at GVR

Groovexpress, Live at GVR

18 Jul, 2015 Matthew Forss

groovexpress2Live at GVR is a six-track release that was recorded live at the Glenbrook Vintage Railway in Waiuku, New Zealand on an actual flat-deck railway car and is the soundtrack from their latest music videos  Groovexpress is a blues, rock, and jazz-driven ensemble with an instrumental repertoire and six very talented musicians. Groovexpress is Mykeljon on electric guitars, Haggis Maguiness on harmonica, Ernest Semu on keyboards, Nic Haslip on bass, Leyton Greening on drums, and Nick Nahi on other percussion. Live at GVR includes three new tracks, as well as three previously-released tracks on their previous release, Ukrainian Doll.

“Amsterdaam!” opens with a vocal ‘one’ and ‘two’ to get started.  After a few drumstick taps, the song quickly morphs into an instrumental gem ripe with bluesy harmonica, jazzy percussion, and rippling guitars.  The whole package is backed by smooth keyboards and a persistent, but varied beat.  The jazzy guitars and keyboards add a bit of smooth jazz undertones, but there are gritty blues elements that add a playful swagger to the tune.

“Blues On The Outside” opens with a little percussive tapping, drums, bluesy keyboards, blurby sounds, and smooth jazz chemistry that does not disappoint.  The opening sequence is a bit reminiscent of Eric Clapton’s Change The World and at other times throughout the song.  The sparkling keyboards, punchy harmonica, and rippling guitar work is jazz-centered and magical. The percussion moves to the forefront at the end of the song, but the outro is rather short.

“Foxy Brown” begins with a rootsy, jazz-laden intro with swishy percussion, B3 organ blurts, and punchy harmonica stylings in an edgy concoction of brilliant musicianship.  The instrumental tune contains a heady rhythm section and rootsy gallantry that would make any jazz aficionado jump for joy.  There are some real smooth guitar sounds that off-set the earthier harmonica tones.  At any rate, this tune incorporates a lot of what makes the other tracks great—varied percussion, a rousing beat, and jazzy sound structures.

“Geraldine” begins with a few B3 sounds, swishy percussion, and guitar-friendly sounds amid a jazzy tune with breezy stylings and smooth jazz sounds that are never overdone.  There are some smooth, yet electric guitar displays of musicianship here that are mostly lacking on the other tracks.  Still, the sparkling keyboard tones and carefree jazz undertones are very special and likeable throughout.

“Tell Me Why” opens with a dreamy percussive sequence, wood block, cymbals, and atmospheric keyboard sounds that are followed by a lightly-played harmonica.  The tune turns into a rather laid-back keyboard, percussion, and harmonica medley with twinkling chimes at times and a rootsy feel amid a jazzy, down-tempo vein.  The sounds are more relaxed and drawn-out overall, which makes for a very satisfying listen.  The track is not only jazz-infused, but it takes on a rock instrumental quality that is never too harsh or loud.

The Auckland, New Zealand instrumental jazz group, Groovexpress, definitely shines through with their latest release, Live at GVR.  Importantly, there are no outside sounds, such as applause throughout the album.  Also, the lack of new material at only three songs may be a deterrent for some.  However, it is a perfect introduction to the band and a perfect companion for long-time fans.  Fans of harmonica infusions, jazzy instrumentals, rugged roots sounds, jazzy guitars, and keyboard tones will love the new music on Live at GVR.  Yes, the album is a little short, but that does not downplay the excellent musicianship throughout.  Instrumental jazz fans have a new album to consider, which will only complement their collection.

Review by Matthew Forss
Rating:  5 stars (out of 5)