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Groove Can Happen Anywhere!
By Mick Polich - 09/14/2009 - 08:28 AM EDT

Groove can happen anywhere, anytime….

I have the ‘pencil-against-the-beer-bottle’ theory.

A few years ago while we were living in Atlanta, I had a jazz duo with a pianist from our church, St. Benedict’s - my good buddy Don Charles. Well, one practice session before an upcoming gig, Don invited another pianist/guitarist from church, Cucho Garcia and Cucho’s friend from South America, who played violin, to come jam with us. This was good – the two gringos will be able to get ‘Latin’ed up’, musically!

Anyway, after we settle in with greetings and small talk, we proceed on a cool little Afro/Cuban jam with a basic chord structure – Don on piano, Cucho on guitar, me on bass, and Cucho’s buddy on violin and……pop bottle?

Yep, in between shooting little bursts of wonderful violin runs, Cucho’s pal takes his violin bow, and taps out a wicked little counterpoint groove on a nearby pop bottle as we jam away in Latin groove heaven - simple, effective, and memorable. I had a music lesson in that observation.

You can tell a lot by how people play just one note on an instrument, or utilize anything handy to lay out some music and groovage. This was memorable because it reinforced the idea that groove can happen anywhere, anything, with anything to produce music.

With so much technology going on – sampled and programmed sounds being pitch aligned and polished up to be bright and shiny – we tend to forget how one simple act can produce the art of music making. Sometimes you need to bring it all back home…..

Time is different than groove in music. You can refer to time in exactness, which, in an interesting view, a lot of programmed and sampled music can be exact in time and precision, but……it’s got nothing to do with groove.

Groove is elastic, funky, and it moves. It’s not exact, and nor does it need to be. Groove is natural, organic, and ….human (thanks, Spock).

Doesn’t mean to say that a piece of music that has been time-aligned, pitch-corrected, and  Pro Tooled – out doesn’t groove. Just because you don’t like music like that doesn’t mean it doesn’t groove. BUT…… it doesn’t take a bunch of electronic gear to get a groove on anywhere, any time. That’s a proven fact.

And please, don’t bring ‘this is the problem with today’s music’ – that’s opinion, and like a certain porthole, everyone has one!

I got into a lively discussion a couple of years ago with someone on – line about the debate that acoustic – based instruments will be replaced eventually with electronics, and sampled sounds. I made some stupid ‘oh-no-the-horse-and-buggy-gets-replaced-by-the-automobile’ noises, but after time, I STILL maintain that people will always want to smack something for percussion, pluck a string, blow into a horn, and strike a piano key. It’s natural, it’s real, and it’s in our composition as humans. You’ll have electronic refinement as long as there’s electricity, by god - but chillen, we all gotta do the natural thang, and make some noise, old skool……..

Tom Waits has gotten notorious for using ‘found sound ‘instrumentation on his later work, such as “Bone Machine” and “Real Gone”. Wacky stuff to some ears, but smacking a tire iron against a steel I – beam for percussion is as old as the hills (or as old as tire irons and I – beams). Take this one step further, and electronically manipulate the sound, and yer getting’ MODERN, possibly ‘avant garde’!

Case in point: I’ve been searching for a certain snare/percussion sound for years, knew it was electronically altered, but couldn’t figure out the process. Enter my acquisition of the Electro – Harmonix 2880 multi-track looper – using the looper, I sampled the ‘clang’ of one of our Tibetan singing bowls. Then, on playback, I slowed and pitch – shifted the sample, and yes mama son, I got THE sound I’ve been looking for since the Clinton administration. Work that into a slow groove, and there’s some killer down-tempo action happening……

Thing is, people use whatever’s available thru whatever means to make music and groove – doesn’t mean that it’s right or wrong, it’s just THERE. It is what it is, and sometimes, it’s brilliant. What I find funny is when music that’s done thru whatever means necessary(and usually by budget constraints),gets picked up on, polished off, and presented to the masses as the ‘next big thing’. I mean, how many people were getting crude samples off LP’s, doing the human beat box thing, and using boom boxes and little Casio keyboards in the early days of hip – hop, just using what was available? Or, when the ‘Buena Vista Social Club’ phenomenon was happening? Those cats had been making their brand of music for decades, then, someone swoops in with recording and video gear, captures the entire experience, scrubs it up for the public, and presents it to the masses as a ‘cultural preservation’?  Then, the Masses applaud, and invite the folks to the Really Big Important Events That Shape Our Cultural History – these people are shrugging their shoulders, and thinking,” We’ve been making music like this for HOW long? And NOW, everybody picks up on it?”

Groove happens everywhere, and sometimes, there’s no field recorder around to capture the moment – is what it is, people.

Groove happens when you set up a battery-powered portable p.a., plug in a microphone, guitar, maybe a bass, and start jamming at the corner of 52 th and University….

Groove happens when three, four, hell, TEN people sit in a circle with banjos, mandolins,  and guitars, and spend the afternoon in a town square playing music that goes back 100 – 200 years in age….

Groove happens anywhere – it doesn’t take a concert hall, club, dance floor, wedding reception, or some other ‘approved’ setting to give it a formal invitation – it happens when it happens WHERE it happens!

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