FACETIME- Three-legged bridge: Acoustic Groove Trio brings folks together

Acoustic Groove Trio

Almost everyone who lived through days of '90s alt-rock looks back fondly at the MTV "Unplugged" TV series. With everyone from Jay-Z and Lauryn Hill to Alice In Chains setting aside their electric instruments for a one-time show, it was an event for the ages.

A decade later, three local musicians have taken their enthusiasm for the format to a new level. Jerel Jacobs, Lester Jackson, and Brian Hendricks have actually dedicated their band expressly to acoustic instruments, and are now using them to pump out calm R&B and soul-inflected soundtracks for seduction.

Jackson, now 23, came of age in the hip-hop world. "He was probably one of the better rappers in Charlottesville," says Jacobs. "I didn't know him back then, but I've heard some of his old tapes. No one was saying the kind of things he was saying, even in popular music."

Jackson stepped back from rap several years ago, though, and has spent the time since honing his skills as a guitarist and a singer.

"I don't want to equate rap with adolescence, but it was a period that I had to go through to fully understand what I'm doing now," he explains. "Regardless of which stage I've been in musically, rap or R&B, soul music has been a big influence." These days, he drives the Trio with inspiration from Bilal and John Legend.

Two months ago, local musician Andy Waldeck picked the group as one of his favorite Charlottesville bands for the Hook's annual music issue. "As a record producer, part of me wants to hear a fuller R&B sound, a little more beefy," he said, "but that's just the record producer in me; the music lover in me loves the stripped down, smooth thing they do."

The music lover is on the right track– Jackson says that the sparseness is what makes the songs tick. "It allows the person to really experiment within themselves, so they become more a part of the music," he says. "They obviously spot voids in there where you can imagine something, and I think that's part of the connection. It's not so overdone that there's no room for anything else."

"It requires you to be a little more creative and a little more astute musically, because you don't have two other guitarists to hide behind if you make a mistake," says Jacobs. "It's not how many instruments you're hearing, it's what those instruments are accomplishing."

Whatever it is, Jacobs says it's working.  "I've been at shows where you have your hip-hop audience and your older Lyle Lovett crowd, and they're all together and enjoying it," he says. "Music is something that divides people. If you have your hip-hop crowd, you can't really listen to the White Stripes, and if you're into Atreyu, you can't hop over and listen to Musiq Soulchild. Music polarizes people, but our sound gets all these people together."