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Groove Jones: Press

Groove Jones Interview: Time with Rod Goelz: Unmetered Groove
by Red Writing Hood for Scrapplehead, March 2010

 
Groove Jones: First Time

I remember the first time I saw Groove Jones extremely well. It was a First Friday, and I had just enjoyed a great early SanSoucie/Carn gig at what is now Bistro 19 (then, it was MB's). Hmmm...not even midnight...had heard a lot about some Groove Jones band that does First Fridays. Home or check-out this Groove Jones thing? Okay, it's ½ block away; if they Likert below a 3, I leave with very little lost. So, I walked to what was then The Harp and Fiddle and opened the door to an absolutely PACKED venue with about 1.5 million musicians on-stage. And did I mention it was PACKED? Every single person was dancing—but the word “dancing” really understates the type of movement that I saw, and “every person” connotes a sense of separateness. Gettin' down to da funk as an agglomerated collective is as close as I can come to verbalizing what I saw. And what I heard? Even given my propensity to the verbose, there is no way to describe (regardless of the amount of words used) what I heard that night in York. I can describe the feeling that I had, however. In the mid-to-late 80's, I saw Fishbone for the first time in a Harp and Fiddle-sized venue in Philadelphia. There were about the same number of people there, as well. Music different; aesthesis same.

Both are among the most memorable, “surprise aha” music-moments I've had. I had no idea what I was walking into on either occasion. But wow. And in my subsequent interview-interaction-experience with Rod Goelz from Groove Jones (below), again, I had no idea...

Note: Definitions for “groove” (e.g., Oxford American and OpenOffice.org Writer) include words like “impression” and “imprint.” Although these are cited as nouns (referring to physical grooves such as those on a vinyl record into which a stylus or needle might fit), it occurred to me that when used as verbs, “impress” and “imprint” are much more akin to my experience with that night's “groove.”

 

Time with Rod Goelz: Unmetered Groove

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Rod Goelz from Groove Jones. And as with the full, 7- to 8-piece band Groove Jones (as the description regarding verbing the “groove” nouns explained above), “impress” and leaving an “imprint” apparently can happen even when time is spent with even a single member of the band. But more on that later...

Not only did I get the chance to learn a little more about Rod; he also filled me in on the latest-breaking updates for those of you jonsin' for that groove...

The main Groove Jones focus right now is to “work on new sounds,” Rod began. “What?!? I loved the old sound...Yikes,” I blurted out before the filter that controls unvocalized responses had a chance to activate. Rod went on to explain that in 2006, Roy Frush III (percussion) and he started playing together with an emphasis on the rhythm section. “There will be more emphasis on vocals,” he added, “and the band will be working on the instrumentation around the voices of three singers: Ralph Real, Unique, and Joe McDowell.”

“Okay, I'm sold...sounds like there's just going to be more Groove Jones to love,” I started thinking.


To understand the new sound toward which the band is moving, let's get caught-up with some of the 7-8 band members (and yes, the specific number of band members has noticeably less than metronome-like precision in its exactitude) and the influences they each bring to the evolving sound of Groove Jones. First, there's a new musician (on keyboards and vocals)...and songwriter...and producer: Ralph Real. Ralph brings the musical influences of Stevie Wonder, Anthony Hamilton, Musiq Soulchild, and John Legend to the Groove Jones sound. Along with Ralph, there are two other singers: Joe McDowell and Unique (formally of the Screaming Daisies). Like Ralph, Joe's influences include Stevie Wonder and Musiq Soulchild. Additionally, Take 6 and Miles Davis have had a great impact on Joe's music. Unique's influences include Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Celine Dion, and Unique's own mother. And Rod's influences? Well, here's where things started to become a bit unmetered...unstructured...a bit less precise...and much more fun.

After he so effortlessly listed the influences of the other band members, I was simply unable to get equally specific information about Rod, from Rod J. Up to this point, the information Rod had been giving to me—and the way it was being given—was just perfect for my hardly-noticeable Type-A (and admittedly, a wee bit, ever-so-slightly controlling) nature. All was methodical, balanced, able to be anticipated: he provided information on one person at a time...a list of specific influences of similar length for each person...it was easy to picture this whole discussion being written-up effortlessly...and then it happened: Rod went out of what might be analogous to common time (and please take notice to the fact that exactly FOUR specific musicians were listed for every band member except Rod...coincidence?), and he wasn't about to be courteously prompted OR aggressively coerced back into it. Damn these sol-fa folks (you know who you are) who are now throwing meter into the equation? Hard to keep up with at times...but that challenge is part of where the fun begins. Certainly, playing bass is in Rod's soul.
 
So, although painfully unbalanced to write this way, I can at least share the more general (and notably comprehensive) influences that I was able to find out about Rod (after all, it's not all about mi J). Rod's into old-school funk, Motown, 60's R&B, New Orleans Funk, rock, and jazz.

In the spirit of Groove Jones working on a new sound, “the band is also working on doing more originals,” Rod added. With Groove Jones' assortment of musical talent, their diversity of influences, and progressive vision, one can only imagine the possibilities...especially if the Groove Jones we've known has merely been a precursor--a hint of the potential that has yet to come to fruition.

The other issue on which the band is focusing is to play at larger venues in metropolitan areas, such as Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C. BUT—before we have to worry about any considerations involved with seeing Groove Jones that exceed walking/driving a mere few minutes—they are continuing to play in Harrisburg and Lancaster. And better yet, currently, you will find Groove Jones every First Friday in York at Tailgaters Grille & Drafthouse from 8.00-midnight.

The biggest challenge with Groove Jones? Can you imagine “working around 8 people's schedules to practice and play?” Pulling that together certainly would take someone with an uncommon, metronome-like precision for details and the savvy to know when to just turn the thing off.

More fun: when finishing-up at the coffee shop, I got Rod's Essential Listening Listing. “In this order,” he added, watching me take notes to make certain his disclosure of these details was, in fact, properly sequenced J: “Lemon Meringue” by Fishbone; “Fried Grease” by Greyboy Allstars; “I Bet You” by Funkadelic; and “People Say” by The Meters. (Hmmmmm...Fishbone reference AND the inclusion of “People Say” by...a band called “THE METERS”...again, coincidences?)

And one Did Ya Know: Rod's been playing mandolin (self-taught) for 5-6 years. Rod said, “I heard Sam Bush and wanted to play.” He “started learning bluegrass 'fiddle tunes,' but has since adapted ALL of my influences--blues, jazz, folk...James Brown Mandolin...” is what he calls it.

Red Writing Hood - Scrapplehead (Mar 20, 2010)