Snzzzz...: Buy NoDoz before listening
Various Artists: The Groove Boutique: Volume One Selected and Mixed by Rafe Gomez
(Tommy Boy Records)
In my humble opinion, quantized or electronic drums– combined with engineers who can't keep their fingers off the reverb knob– are the reason why jazz became smooth and damn near dead. I must admit I was a sucker for a few artists associated with smooth jazz: Four Play, Najee, and Hiroshima.... But, for the most part, smooth jazz just makes me want to go to sleep.
In the mid '90s, a large part of the jazz scene seemed to be almost under the radar. It wasn't until the emergence of acid jazz– a combination of jazz instrumentation married to down-tempo hip-hop drum loops– that the popularity of jazz began to grow again, this time in modern lounge circles.
The slow grooves and melodic instruments went well with the new yuppies of the techno-generation– 20-something college grads living large on impressive salaries. Back then I called it "martini music."
There's a connection between acid jazz and smooth jazz in the sense that they're both characterized by slow grooves and minimal drums. As a result, many smooth jazz artists jumped on the acid jazz bandwagon. I chose to ignore most of them until someone dumped this Groove Boutique CD in my mailbox some months ago.
The cover of the Groove Boutique compilation says it all. It's a picture of a wine bottle and glasses on a table overlooking a beach somewhere. The bright colors give the scene a sort of "if James Bond were gay" feel. I don't know how many times I stared at the cover without opening it.
I think I was scared, but when I finally listened to the album, I soon realized the only thing I had to be scared of was becoming too relaxed. I had to take the CD out of my car. It was a hazard to my driving. I was falling asleep at the wheel.
You see, Rafe Gomez has compiled a few older and newer songs that fall right in between the whole smooth jazz and acid jazz genres. He has interspersed well-known names like Headhunters and Soulive among lesser known artists. He even has a track of his own on the album.
As a selector, he has arranged the tracks in a pleasing way. Nothing ever jumps out. Unfortunately, he doesn't mix the songs, which for me, a child of turntables and records, is a crime if you call yourself a DJ. For what it's worth, I would recommend this album for a mid- to up-scale restaurant with an extensive wine list or martini menu. Or maybe to throw on in the background while you cook a four-course meal for a guy/girl you're trying to impress. I just can't imagine anyone listening to this album for kicks unless they were trying to sedate a nervous condition.
The long and short of it: These sorts of grooves are just plain boring. No matter how hard I try, I can listen to only about four songs before yearning to lie down.
When my buddy had a back injury a few years ago, the doctor prescribed Vicodin and Percocet, but he never finished the prescriptions. Now, on the rare occasions when he has a really stressful day and can't seem to calm himself, he digs one out of the cabinet. Groove Boutique may be my Vicodin. I think I'm going to shelve it until I face a dire emergency.
Groove Boutiq ue