Funk and jazz are genres that have always been commercially and creatively more viable in the southern half of the country. It has less to do with stereotyping and more to do with the general prevalence of similar strains of ethnic arts – like Carnatic and Hindustani – in the suburbia, that identify with the aesthetes of open jam improvs.
In Chennai and thereabouts, these skills are epitomized by Groove #3, the city’s most potent new jazz combine. They started off in January 2010 as a three-man jazz band (hence, the ‘3’ reference), with Naveen Samson on lead guitars, David Joseph on the drums and Dhivyan Ahimaz on the bass.
An erstwhile promo for the band, set against a tasty sample of Funk-E
Dhivyan was eventually replaced by Napier Naveen Kumar, and the line-up was further reinforced with the full time arrivals of keyboardist Leon James and eclectic percussionist Allwyn Jeya Paul.
More than the intent, it is the combined experience and expertise of all these musicians that makes this band such a force to be reckoned with. While Leon James is a renowned Illayaraja and AR Rahman acolyte, Allwyn Jeya Paul has featured prominently as part of Kailash Kher and Hariharan’s stage ensemble, besides freelancing for most film music directors.
Naveen Samson and David Joseph themselves have done a lot in the interim, while Groove #3 has been bred as an idea. Naveen is a renowned guitarist in Chennai’s local gospel music circles, but musically, he’s also strolled across the divide to the other side to support Elton John and Shakira on stage.
David Joseph, for his part, has been ‘instrumental’ in the rise of La Pongal, the distinctive Tamil Electro-Folk Band. Add to this this Naveen Kumar’s finely honed, Berklee College of Music bred sensibilities, and this begins to seem like a conception of the highest quality.
The band has reneged on the need for a permanent vocalist, instead choosing to spread their time with cued-in session vocalists – their usual favourites being Benny Dayal and Harshitha Krishnan. Benny Dayal is, obviously, a more proven name, but Harshitha reserves her place for the reserves of soul in her voice, effortlessly replicating some timeless Aretha Franklin traditions in there.
Benny ‘Jah Man’ Dayal does a Bob Marley with Groove #3
But the decision to hold off on recruiting a vocalist makes sense, since Groove #3’s music doesn’t necessarily cry out for words to explain meanings. Sometimes, it all seems a little trip-hoppy, but that’s only the range that the music traverses, relapsing just as easily into the syncopated rise and tumble of Jazz hooks.
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