" Just Groovin'"

Bruce Pulver / Sept.2008

“Just Groovin” is the perfect title for Diane Marino’s latest release. Blending her powerfully expressive voice with her passion for songs of the 1960’s, Ms. Marino collaborates with the “best of the best” featured artists who, according to co-producer and husband Frank Marino, “just wanted to be a part of this project.” “Just Groovin” is a real head turner.

A quick look at the song list begs, hmmm, let’s take a listen. Not a typical jazz recording, (how could it be?) The choice of songs captures anyone who recalls the smooth, soulful songs from this era. Arrangements by Ms. Marino and Jeff Steinberg, along with Nashville’s finest supporting studio musicians are what keep the listener engaged. Both swing hard when called upon and drape the ballads with sultry, smoothness, at a moment’s notice. The guest soloists are certainly featured but as an integrated component of the overall project. Coaxing these ingredients into a successful outcome is quite a challenge. Well done.

After several listens, a clear image comes to mind. Remember the television variety shows of the 1960’s? You know, before cable, TiVo, the internet, text messaging, video games and reality TV. Parents would sit around the TV after the kids were in bed. The evening might include an adult beverage in hand enjoyed after a long day at work. It was a time to sit back and be entertained. At some point during the show, usually between the comedy sketches and the flashy dance routines, lights dim, a full orchestra is lifted behind a see-through curtain. In front a piano, microphone and bar stool are all at the ready. What will happen next?

The show host introduces Dionne Warwick, Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight, or some other performers of the era. This critic was the one put to bed. However, when a hint was provided that one of these singers or maybe jazz legends like Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Buddy Rich, Count Basie was to be the featured guest, new goal emerged.

The new challenge was to sneak out of bed and crawl hands and knees across the shag carpet, stopping just around the corner to catch a glimpse of the singer and the smoking band. After a song or two, a commercial would be followed by another dance or comedy routine. The key was to get back to bed without drawing attention and the resulting parental spanking for not being asleep. Ah! Which was more fun, hearing the music or not getting caught?

“Just Groovin” includes a year’s worth of music from this type of memory, flannel PJ’s, carpet burns and all. Ms. Marino mixes the right amount of commercial appeal with an inviting splash of jazz and soulful playing for the curious ear. Thirst quenching!

The refreshment comes from enjoying songs often passed over by vocalists in favor of American songbook selections. The selections on “Just Groovin’” are as much a part of American popular music as any others. Thanks for dusting and polishing these classics into your great interpretations.

Take the time to listen. Catch the well blended ensemble playing for sure, but the soloists provide deeply-rooted, soulful playing. Houston Person, is like the elder statesman, who does not need many words (notes) to make a bold statement. Kirk Whalum’s sound can brighten up anyone’s day. Wycliffe Gordon has such a rich sound on trombone, like fresh cream in a steaming cup of Java. Proper respect is given when Ms. Marino invites original Rascal Felix Cavaliere to perform a duet on his classic composition “Groovin”. The alto sax solos by Cole Burgess and Mark Douthit, the smooth trumpet sounds of Rod McGaha and heartfelt Cello of Anthony LaMarchina also deserve special mention. These guys are all tremendous players.

“Just Groovin” is just plain fun. Check it out!

Bruce Pulver, September 2008