Modern Groove Syndicate,
(Courthouse, 2004)

These guys do hit the groove. Actually, it's more like they attack it. Vessel starts off with high energy and never loses it. The groove here is mostly funk, but the rhythm section of Joel DeNunzio on drums and Todd Herrington on bass provides far more than the standard beats.

Daniel Clarke on keyboards and J.C Kuhl on sax add dimension with the use of electronics without sounding gimmicky. Clarke effortlessly goes from synthesizer to jazz organ workouts and plays a solid electric piano on "Sasquatch," while Kuhl can sound like an entire horn section.

Although Clarke and Kuhl take many interesting tangents, the 13 cuts are tightly arranged. There are no needlessly extended ones, nor is there the aimless noodling that detracts from the sound of many jam bands. All the solos are tight and crisp, and make sense within the context of each composition.

The tunes that feature guest stars are among the most interesting. The smooth "Bojungeles" and "Mo' Time" have Susanna Klein on violin and Molly Sharp on viola, while the cartoonish but still funky "Scloop M'Dooby" features John Winn on bass clarinet.

The MGS have a contemporary sound without being, god forbid, "smooth," and are even a bit experimental at times, like early Weather Report, without veering too far off to be enjoyable.

- Rambles
written by Dave Howell
published 14 February 2004