The True Groove All-Stars, Featuring Khalil Kain, At Pianos, Sunday, October 8th, 2017, Reviewed
If you are wondering where I am later this year, I’ve decided to quit my job and follow Sam Huber around Finland selling tie-dyed tee-shirts, but till then I will be following the True Groove All-Stars around the tri-state area while they morph from the hard rocking funk band performing the Mess We Made in a mess of groove to the Black Magnolia mood band where the groove is so subtle it is more like a dent, moving through waves of sound and feeling. It is the same band but like the man said, sometimes you rock, and sometimes you roll.
At Pianos, in a way too short set, Tomas Doncker lead the All-Star band through a sexy and sizzling r&b workout to “Some Ol’ Dolls,’ like the Dead meet Kool And The Gang, last song standing deep funk, then a gorgeous “Sweet Emily,” it was hard to believe they were the same band who have been tearing up the country. “Sweet Emily” is from Doncker’s album with Yusef Komunyakaa The Mercy Suite. It worked as an appetizer but not for what came next.
What came next was Khalil Kain, the popular star of “Girlfriends” as well as a performing in the huge breakthrough movie “Juice”. As a child, when Khalil became frustrated with the world, his mother would hand him a pen and paper and tell him to write down his feelings, those poetic outbursts reached the attention of Tomas who worked with Khalil into turning the words into spoken word lyrics for an upcoming album. We heard two songs, yesterday, “Bang My Head” and “Lambs To Slaughter”. Khalil is a good looking guy and the girls began to move towards the stage, but he kept them with poetic shards of words performed in a be bop, beatnik on the road, smoky jazzed up delivery. “Lambs to Slaughter” is a devastating punch, with some soulfulness that can’t be ignored and an angry, all spit out final syllabels as Khalil rewrites the history.
The evening ended with what feels like the start of 2018, the Doncker- Komunyakaa composition “Black Magnolia,” a song so great it has become the working name for the eagerly awaited follow up to The Mercy Suite. It may be the best thing Doncker has ever put his name to, certainly the best ballad: it is an inky blue look into the darkness, into the heart of the oblivion, and it has the grasp and feel of true heartbreak. At this point in time, Doncker is a very good frontman, he has an easy going rapport with the audience, joking them on whether they got their groove glasses on, showing them how he wants them to clap, and quite as comfy in acoustic mood mode as in hard electric Hendrix with more rhythm. Still, the evening was a strange mix and match, not the True Groove Allstars Mess sound, not exactly what we are expecting with the new album, it seemed as though Doncker was feeling out how he was going to move forward. Khalil was an added plus. I wish the set had cohesed better, it needed more time really, but it certainly was enough for me to be very excited for next year.