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Published: 2002/01/23
by Michael Lello

Wicked Live – Addison Groove Project

self-released

With jazz chops of cats three times their age and the funky sensibilities
you'd expect from
twenty-somethings in the jam band scene, Addison Groove Project's
Wicked Live
somehow flew under the radars of most fans for more than a year. In fact, I
didn't know about it
the album until my editor told me
he was sending
it to me to review.

Boy, was it ever worth my wait.

The more spins I give Wicked Live – recorded in Saratoga Springs, NY,
on September 15,
2000 – not only do I like it more, but the harder I find it to believe it
took
this long for me to hear
it.

Why didn't someone tell me how good this is?

This is infectious music.

Infectious in the fact that you won't want to listen to anything else
when you first hear it,
and – in a more esoteric sense – infectious because aspects of the music
itself
bore themselves into
your brain without letting up.

Case in point: Track two, titled "Shugy". Rob Marscher sets the tone with
some spacey
synthesizer textures before John Hall lays down a simple, slow bass line.
Dave Adams' alto sax
and Ben Groppe's tenor sax bob and weave, and guitarist Brendan McGinn is
content to lay down
rhythm licks. All the while, Hall is still playing the same repeated bass
figure, as if his bandmates
aren't even there. Nevermind the sax pyrotechnics, or drummer Andrew Keith
pushing and
pulling the beat. Hall won't budge until about five minutes into the tune
when the band enters into
some start-stop vamps, and he changes things up slightly. But that segment
closes quickly, and
slicing through the fog, guess what we get? That bass line again.

It may not seem like much, but during those few minutes, it's apparent
that AGP aren't
just another bunch of college-aged white kids from the Northeast jumping on
the jamwagon. Hall's
planting of the seed, augmenting it, and then returning to it, shows that
this
group means business.
They have the chops to play circles around anyone, but their restraint
should
be admired. And
audience and band alike are rewarded, because instead of getting a college
music department's
annual jazz recital (aka wankfest), we are treated to a sextet that
knows
the notes they don’t
play are just as valuable – if not more valuable than – as the notes they
do play.

With the funk/jazz subgenre of the jamband scene growing in leaps and
bounds behind
artists like Karl Denson, Medeski Martin and Wood and Soulive, there's no
reason the Addison
Groove Project shouldn't be mentioned when discussing the subgenre's
brightest stars. The group
pays homage to the jazz and funk greats of the past, but isn't interested in
riding their coattails.
And while the middle word of their name is an accurate description as any of
their sound, the
AGP isn't content with just laying down danceable beats that rile up the
crowd but don't translate
well to CD. Their compositional chops and melodic sense are just as
noteworthy as their
collective playing prowess. Simply put, this is one of the more enjoyable albums, recorded live or
in
the studio, to
come out in the early '00s. If the AGP keeps improving, it's impossible to
predict how high they'll
soar.

But I can't wait to hear it.

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