True Groove All-Stars: The Global Soul Throw Down At Bowery Electric, Wednesday, April 5th, 2017, Reviewed
The last time I saw the True Groove Allstars at the Bowery Electric last November (here), they performed a 90 minute set with featured performers including Phoebe Nir and the Lost Boys Davey Jones. It was a great evening for many reasons, among them being the construct meant there was no breaks between sets. On Wednesday night, True Groove leader Tomas Doncker changed it. There were three opening acts and then the main Allstar set, which meant there were breaks aplenty which ate into the evening The result was a state of the True Groove label evening but not the state of Tomas Doncker. How you respond to that depends upon how big a fan you are of Doncker and not how big a fan you are of True Groove. Everything was good except not nearly enough Doncker material.
The evening opened with one of the best bassists in the business, Kevin Jenkins. Known for his session work and live playing, as well as being a member of Shemekia Copeland’s band, but also his two solo albums which highlight a softer and more intense singer songwriter side to the great musician. He performed everything from the reggae rhythmed original “Save The Day” through the Joni Mitchell cover (off his upcoming Mitchell covers EP She), an exquisite “Edith And The Kingpin”. Kevin’s voice has the warmth of a Clapton and his bass playing is self-controlled, his skills shine through with a minimum of fuss. JSWISS, a young rapper from North Carolina, was next. He started by shouting out the Tar Heels, before his band, including a trumpet and a sax player, proved the man can rap over anything, hell he rapped over a packed out Bowery Electric clapping out of time to “No Music”. It took awhile for me to warm up to JSWISS, “I WIsh” was smart yet a little obvious. But a re-mixed “Heat” followed by a show stopping “Just Living” completely turned me round. The days of alt-rap feels so numbered, all those West Coast collectives are in a gigantic circle jerk while Atlanta trap should begin and end with Gucci and maybe Future, for sure when East Coast youngster Desiigner sounds like Future lite and still breaks pop, an artist like JSWISS is a breath of fresh air and needed. God Tiny’s lead singer Jeremy Kolker recently claimed “I’m trying to create music that promotes higher consciousness, spiritual enlightenment, or whatever uplifting state of being one may find themselves yearning for.” He does this by rolling around the stage while screaming at the top of his lungs. Needless to add, that works fine with me. The band sounds like a mix of alt and indie rock, with more blues and a loudness that can revert to sludge metal at a moment’s notice. Kolker is a rock star and a great live performer.
So far so good, but the All Star set was last and didn’t give me what I wanted because what I wanted was Doncker. An eleven song set had three songs by Doncker. What the hell, man? All three were great, especially a guitar solo at the end of “The Mess me Made” which had me wondering if these guys shouldn’t evolve into a serious jam band. When you can sting us like that, do it for ten not a minute. Doncker used the set to introduce us to more of his extended musical family. Miriam Tamar is a terrific soulful singer with world beats right behind her, and actor Khalil Kain performs window shattering spoken word, Sam Huber is a terrific soul shouter from Helsinki. As for Marla Mase. Two songs??? That’s it??? She promises a tour soon and really, given Marla’s extensive catalog, two songs is foreplay. When it comes to the Allstars, we wanna go all the way.