By Jonathan Widran

Don’t be surprised if Euge Groove and his wife, Bane, celebrate Valentine’s Day this year closer to home in Westlake Village, California, rather than take an exotic trip somewhere. Over the last few months, the couple has mastered the art of the “working vacation,” as the saxman’s breakneck performance schedule has taken them on two major smooth jazz-themed cruises and, in January, to Puerto Vallarta for a show at the Crown Paradise Resort with Narada Jazz labelmate Jeff Golub. And, on Feb. 11, he’s kicking off BB Jazz’s 2006 Smooth Jazz Series in Huntington Beach.

Partying at sea last November with his fellow smooth jazz stars aboard the Carnival Conquest (on the maiden All-Star Smooth Jazz Cruise) and Holland America’s ms Zuiderdam (on the Warren Hill cruise) was the perfect way for Groove (real name Steve Grove) to celebrate his recent #1 airplay hit on Radio & Records’ Smooth Jazz chart, “Get ‘Em Goin’.” 

The titles of his two Narada discs, Livin’ Large and the new Just Feels Right, perfectly define the experience the Groves had both in Mexico and on these two excursions. The first cruise and the week at the resort in Puerto Vallarta qualify as romantic trips marking 16 years of marriage; they took their three kids, Dax (age 15), Canyon (14) and Lilah Belle (8) on the Hill cruise. Of the three children, only Canyon (a guitarist) is showing a major interest in music–– but Groove doubts he wants to pursue it professionally. 
“People tend to glamorize family life like it’s easy, but it’s unbelievably hectic, and it’s amazing how much energy it takes to stay on top of kids at their ages,” Groove says. “I like to joke that if they’re not mad at you about something, you’re not doing your job as a parent. And there are so many bad temptations in the world and online you have to protect them from. That’s why I wanted to take them on the cruise, to get away from the usual stresses of life, spend some time together and have fun away from the normal swing of things. One of the reasons I started my solo career after so many years of being a sideman was to spend more time with them. These types of gigs are the perfect way to blend both worlds.”

Groove developed his chops playing with famed horn band Tower of Power from 1988-92, and has played sax for Joe Cocker on various tours since 1994. Testament to Groove’s growing popularity as a solo artist, he returned to Cocker’s fold last year, opening 26 shows for the legendary singer before stepping into his familiar side role. 
“Cocker is the most passionate guy about music I’ve ever worked with, but he’s a man of few words on stage,” says Groove. “The first show I opened for him, he told me backstage that he couldn’t believe how quickly and easily I spoke to the audience. It usually takes him four or five songs to say hello. I think I’ve become a lot more comfortable with audiences since starting my own career. 
“It’s not just about learning to be the initiator rather than the follower,” he adds, “it’s about being responsible for keeping the band together and happy and making sure the audience is always entertained. When I was doing my first solo gigs, I was nervous about the down time between songs, so I started this whooping holler to fill the silence. I probably don’t need to do it anymore, but it’s a holdover from that time that my audiences still enjoy. In my days with TOP (Tower of Power), I learned the importance of keeping the energy going, but in a controlled way. All these years later, I’m still working to achieve that balance.”

In 2000, the year he released his self-titled debut album and immediately became a sensation in the genre, Groove divided his time between promoting that disc and touring both in the U.S. and playing stadiums throughout Europe with Tina Turner. The legendary singer hired him after seeing him play in Milan with popular Italian singer Eros Ramazotti, with whom Groove was touring. “She came out and did a duet with him, then sang ‘Simply the Best,’ and liked the way I played,” the saxman recalls. “She was looking for a new saxman and I got the call.”

While Groove insists Turner was easily the classiest performer he ever worked with, he learned a great deal about standing his ground and not caving in to the quirky demands of his boss––even when that boss is a legend beloved by millions worldwide. For the previous 15 years, Turner’s saxman was Tim Capello, a muscular, long-haired wild man, who Groove says “looks like the cover guy from a romance novel.” The singer wanted to mold her new sax player to be the buff sex god her old one was. 

“She wanted me to let my hair grow long and bump and grind with her when we performed, like Tim did,” Groove says. “I backed away so far from that demand that I actually cut my hair shorter! I told Tina that I wasn’t him, and fortunately, she respected that. Fifteen years earlier, I’m sure I would have caved in and tried to become something I’m not just to please her, but I would have been lousy at it. I would have been so miserable that I  probably would have lost the gig. 

“Once we were on the road, though, we had an absolute blast,” adds Groove, who also played keyboards and percussion on the tour. “Tina did everything with style and taught me a lot about being in control. When she wanted something a certain way, she was relentless until the band got it right, and the results were always great. All of these experiences have played a huge part in helping me develop my own show. It’s all about communicating with the audience, having a fun yet intimate conversation with them, reaching them on an emotional level. When the energy level is high, you can get away with a few mistakes. When you’re making a record, and play a wrong note, you have to go back and get it right. Onstage, the moment passes and people forgive you if they’re having fun.”

One of the other great joys of having toured with superstar acts is what Groove calls “a free wine education;” big record companies love to lavish their artists and bands with the best stuff both backstage and at fancy local restaurants. The Groves are quickly becoming major aficionados. If they celebrate Valentine’s Day with a quiet dinner close to home, they will probably toast with cabernets from Stags Leap or Tignello, an expensive Super Tuscan wine from Italy. Groove also has those four cases of Symmetry he brought home from the Rodney Strong Vineyards after a season-closing gig there in mid-October. 

“I don’t have wine caves at my house,” he laughs. “I think my catacombs are my three children! The Rodney Strong wine has become a favorite of ours. People were making fun of me when they saw how much I wanted to bring home, like, do you want to take the whole winery? 

“Ironically,” he adds, “I also keep a bottle of Dom Perignon that someone gave me, which I am keeping for a special occasion. I said I wanted to drink it when there was a milestone in my career I wanted to celebrate. But each time one of my songs hits #1 at radio, or one of my albums charts high on Billboard, I say no, there’s something bigger coming. I should probably learn to look back at these past five years and take a deep breath and enjoy my success, but I really don’t feel that I’ve accomplished what I need to yet. The competition in this genre, especially among sax players, is fierce, and I never want to become complacent. There’s always so much more to do.” 

Euge Groove is scheduled to open BB Jazz’s 2006 Huntington Beach Smooth Jazz Series with two shows, 7 and 9pm, on Feb. 11 at the Huntington Beach Cultural Center. Dinner seating is also available at 5 and 7:30pm. Held at the 319-seat Library Theatre, the Huntington Beach Cultural Center is located at 7111 Talbert Ave., in Huntington Beach, California. BB Jazz is a non-profit organization with proceeds benefiting children with autism. Tickets can be purchased online at www.bbjazz.com, or by calling (714) 377-7574.

For more information on Groove, visit his website at www.eugegroove.com.

 

Discography:
2000 Euge Groove Warner Bros
2002 Play Date Warner Bros
2004

Livin' Large

Narada Jazz
2005 Just Feels Right Narada Jazz

top of page

The contents of this website are the exclusive property of
Smooth Jazz News.  Use by permission only.
© 2000-2006 Smooth Jazz News