Arturo Vera / Ethan Mann: Acoustic Project (2012) 

By  DAN BILAWSKY,   Published: March 3, 2012 
The Acoustic Project is a confluence of classical styling, Spanish-tinged songs, and improvisational elements, brought together by two men who have ample knowledge and skill in all three areas. Guitarists Ethan Mann and Arturo Vera have known each other for two decades, having connected long ago when they were both at the Manhattan School of Music, and they share a deep musical bond that is evident throughout this album.
   Their journey begins with Heitor Villa-Lobos' "Aria," which marries Baroque and Brazilian qualities. They continue with Stanley Myers' "Cavatina"—best known as the theme to The Deer Hunter (1978)—giving it a bright and cheery facelift that completely transforms the nature of the song while also retaining key melodic and harmonic elements. The program continues as Vera and Mann visit the work of Antonio Carlos Jobim, choosing "Double Rainbow" over any number of Jobim's overdone classics. They also spice up Johann Sebastian Bach's "Bourrée in E Minor." 
  It's Chick Corea's music, however, that dominates this session and which leaves a lasting impact. Four of the eight pieces herein come from the noted pianist's pen, and this pair revels in the opportunity to live in his music: "Armando's Rhumba" is a tightly delivered, energetic affair; the infrequently covered "What Was" proves to be a nice palate cleanser between the Jobim and Bach numbers; "Spain" possesses duende in generous amounts; and "Song To The Pharaoh Kings" gives both men a chance to converse in short, traded statements.
   The Acoustic Project is the type of outing that's built around stylistic continuity, not variety, and that consistency can be observed from track to track as well as player to player. While guitar enthusiasts may appreciate the opportunity to dissect the differences or similarities in each man's playing, the great joy of this record is in hearing and observing what both men create as one. 
   Track Listing: Aria; Cavatina; Armando's Rhumba; Double Rainbow; What Was; Bourrée In E Minor; Spain; Song To The Pharoah Kings. 
  Personnel: Arturo Vera: guitar; Ethan Mann: guitar. 
Record Label: Self Produced | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream 


All About Jazz

For Ethan Mann, it most definitely and unmistakably is all about a groove – locked in, propulsive, and subtly swinging. The guitarist’s most recent release, It’s All About A Groove, finds Mann working with drummer Greg Bandy and keyboardist Chip Crawford, in a studio version of the same group you might have caught some Saturday night at Jules Bistro in the East Village, NY NY. These jazzmen have over 60 years worth of gigging between them, especially notably Bandy, who’s been ratamaflamming and other drum-type activities since 1964.
From the first note of the opening track, “Foxy,” and hard-swinging midtempo Mann original, it’s clear that these three musicians have also been playing together for some time. Their sense of dynamics and group transition is outstanding, with Bandy demonstrating the clear intention of collaboration with Mann and Crawford, highlighting aspects of their playing without pulling too much attention to the drums. It’s a good opening number, one to get the listener excited about the rest of the show. The Latin-tinged “What Are You Doing For The Rest Of Your Life?” a Michael Legrand song, presents some bubbling synthesizer work from Crawford that supports a brisk series of runs from Mann, then bursts out into its own enthusiastic solo. These two numbers, one groovy and the other sleek, present the two musical points that the album moves between.
Next up are a trio of tunes from the Philly soul group The Stylistics, “Betcha By Golly Wow,” “People Make the World Go Round,” and “Stop, Look, Listen To Your Heart.” The first is a very sweet rendition of the ballad, and the second finds a surprisingly heavy groove despite its poignant melody, but “Stop, Look, and Listen” is easily the best of the three. Featuring Crawford back on the organ and Mann playing the opening lick in Wes Montgomery parallel octaves, this last Stylistics song gives all three musicians a chance to swing hard, and we are treated to some of Bandy’s best drumming on this track.
Two blues numbers drop down next. “Woman Please,” written and narrated by Bandy, puts forward a bluesy vamp over which the drummer laments being torn between loving his lady and playing his music. What’s a guy to do? Laugh a little at this over-the-top number. The pace picks up greatly with another Mann composition, “Blues For Now,” a blues to be sure, but fast and angular, with one of Crawford’s best solos and Bandy’s earnest efforts to propel the song forward and kick the energy level higher and higher.
Mann’s trio has done well in choosing songs that are a little off the beaten path, and that continues with, “The Look of Love” the Burt Bacharach tune from the James Bond film Casino Royale – the 1966 film, not the 2006 one. Peter Sellers, not Daniel Craig. The agreeable take on this tune makes way for Crawford’s composition, “Minor Steps” (based on Coltrane’s “Giant Steps), which no doubt was a challenge to write and must be a challenge to play. Both Mann and Crawford do the melody justice and navigate their way through the changes ably and emerge unscathed.
As a solo guitarist, Mann plays such a lyrical and beautiful rendition of the Rainger/Robin song, “Easy Living,” one almost wishes he’d recorded a few more of just him alone with his instrument. The second time through the bridge of the song, Mann displays some outstanding movement on the low strings while comping on the upper end. And, closing the album on a high, the band returns to the classic organ trio configuration from the Schwartz/Deitz tune “You And The Night And The Music,” which charges along with plenty of fire and imagination. The closing minute of the last track, in which none of the musicians appear to want to let go of the tune – but ultimately do -- is a rousing show-stopper.
It’s All About A Groove is straightforward, swinging, and presents three thoroughly professional jazzmen in top form. More than most albums, this one will make you feel like you’re sitting in the club on a Saturday night, sipping on the second of your two-drink minimum, soaking up the atmosphere. The night is young, everyone is good-looking and witty, and you have cab fare home. With Ethan Mann and his crew taking care of the music, you’ll definitely want to stay and listen a little longer.

Mark Hayes



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 Published: September 2, 2010

It's All About A Groove 

Ethan Mann/ Self produced 


It's All About a Groove is all about three self-effacing musicians having a fine time playing some music that burns with a cold fire, and swinging, sometimes with a fair gusto. Most of all this date is about uncomplicated, yet attractive improvisation, as a group that rarely veers far from the melody, but ventures far enough to create the right kind of buzz. Ethan Mann is a guitarist who has a lot to say in a voice that is uncompromisingly his own. But he prefers brevity to the filigreed approach, and makes statements innovatively, but succinctly. His harmonic conception relies on depth of color rather than myriad shades, and with restrained brush strokes he is able to generate a greater buzz than expected. His single note approach with some bent notes and a whisper of tremolo appears to suit the more heavy hand of Chip Crawford on the Hammond B3. Crawford can swing with the best and while he eschews the virtuoso playing style of Jimmy Smith and Lonnie Smith, he also comes from a deeply spiritual background albeit with a lighter touch, somewhat reminiscent of Papa Joe DeFrancesco. His solo on “Stop, Look, Listen to Your Heart” best describes the fluent style, light of touch and with nuanced expression that Crawford applies with suave grace throughout the album. Of course, drummer, Greg Bandy has the funk and the groove that is the glue which holds this small unit together. It is no coincidence, then, that a phrase from the vocal on his “Woman Please” comes to characterize the entire album, as he sings how he came to write the piece in question. Bandy is an old soul who plays with fire and a great deal of dexterity. He plays with the deep sense of appealing to the rhythm of the saints, tapping out a swinging litany that accompanies his urgent prayer and sermon that he appears to preach in “Woman Please.” It's All About a Groove is one of those rare records that comes straight from--and aiming its musical missives straight at--the heart. This in itself is very rare in a day and age full of posturing and trying to be something that one is not. Three cheers for the blue notes and blue color blues here. Track Listing: Foxy; What Are You Doing For The Rest of Your Life; Betcha By Golly Wow; People Make The World Go 'Round; Stop, Look, Listen With Your Heart; Woman Please; Blues for Now; The Look of Love; Minor Steps; Easy Living; You and the Night and the Music. Personnel: Ethan Mann: guitar; Chip Crawford: keyboards: Greg Bandy: drums.

By Raul d'Gama Rose



 There are some things in this world that at first appear to be encased in mystery, the secrets of which can only be revealed by the "experts" — free-verse poetry, modern art, okra. It turns out that no special knowledge is required to appreciate these things. You've just got to be open to a slight shift in perspective, allowing your concept of "fun" to expand.

This is an attitude that the jazz neophyte needs to be made aware of. Too often the genre is presented as this ultra-technical discipline that can only be fully appreciated and understood after years of study.

Yeah sure...diatonic scales, modes, chord substitutions, polyrhythms — they all describe the music. What they don't do is look into its essence. Can the concept of "groove" be mapped out in this way? Probably. Should it? Can a highly esoteric discussion of rhythms and their relationship to song structures be used to get at why a song with a full-on groove makes you want to get up on the coffee table and wave around the back of your front side? Obviously not!

None of this should imply that the musicians don't know their stuff. Guitarist Ethan Mannand his trio have decades of experience playing with the likes of Patience Higgins, Gary Bartz, Maria Schneider, Javon Jackson, and Pharoah Sanders. Still, all of the name-dropping in the world can't trump this simple fact:Its' All About A Groove will make those body parts wave.

The album starts off right in the pocket with Mann's "Foxy." With the loose-but-tight interplay between Mann and keyboardist Crawford, I'm immediately reminded of the great Wynton Kelly Trio record Smokin' At The Half Note, which featured Wes Montgomery. Not a bad way to get things going. This feel is maintained even during knottier compositions such as Crawford's "Minor Steps." The standout original here is Greg Bandy's "Woman Please." It's a nasty little tune that burns the groove down in a James Blood Ulmer sort of way. Bandy even provides some vocals. When he calls out for "some of that stinkin' organ," you just know you're in the middle of some serious fun.

Mann has made some terrific choices in the covers department with selections from the Stylistics songbook ("People Make The World Go 'Round", "Betcha By Golly Wow," "Stop, Look, Listen To Your Heart"), Michel Legrand's "What Are You Doing For The Rest Of Your Life," and a slinky take on the Bacharach/David classic "The Look of Love." The latter tune serves up a great keyboard solo that manages to take things "out" without losing the vibe for a single second.

That's what it's all about, isn't it? It's not press rolls on the snare, or tricky key signature changes, or any of that stuff. Beginners and experts alike should just listen with their body. With grooves this intense, it'll know what to do.

Mark Saleski

Published: July 7, 2010


It’s All About a Groove is an entertaining new album by New York based guitarist, and Vermont native, Ethan Mann. Mann, who relocated to New York in 1991, currently leads the organ trio featured on this recording, consisting of Chip Crawford, keyboards, and Greg Bandy, drums. A graduate of the Manhattan School of Music, Mann has studied with such jazz guitar luminaries as Rodney Jones and Jack Wilkins, and is currently on faculty at Crestwood Music Education Center and Manna House Workshops in East Harlem. The album starts off with the Gospel tinged “Foxy.” Throughout the tune, and the rest of the album, Mann and Crawford react well to each other, their solos helping to maintain the steady shuffle groove that defines the chart. Another highlight on the album is the Samba treatment given to the classic jazz standard “What Are You Doing for the Rest of Your Life.” This type of groove might not be expected on a tune like this, but it works very well. Each soloist is right on the money, each taking new and interesting harmonic turns in both the solo lines and the accompaniment. The album features some enjoyable original compositions by the members of the trio, including “Woman Please,” “Blues for Now” and “Minor Steps.” There is a section of music from the book of the Stylistics, “Betcha by Golly Wow,” “People Make The World Go Round” and “Stop, Look, Listen To Your Heart,” as well as jazz standards such as “The Look of Love” and “Easy Living.” Mann’s trio work is reminiscent of the idiomatic vibe of the ‘60’s jazzers in both sound and style. His tone is bright and punchy, which contrasts well with Crawford’s rich organ sound. This group interacts on a deep level due to their time spent together on the bandstand, adding another level of interest to the album. Though the drums can be a bit busy at times, the high level of musical energy coming from the trio prevents it from becoming overwhelming.



Vince Lewis


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It's All About a Groove 

Ethan Mann  Petunia Records (2010)


Jazz, pop, funk, blues—put them all together, and you get It's All About a Groove, by guitarist Ethan Mann. Aided by keyboardist Albert “Chip” Crawford and drummer Greg Bandy. Mann presents a delightful mix of original songs and tributes.
The three musicians started very young. Mann was 14 when he and a friend were hired to play at a bar in Chicopee, Massachusetts. Crawford was 12 when he earned $5 playing on a flatbed truck outside a drive-in movie in Raleigh, North Carolina. And Bandy was 13 when he was called to substitute for a cousin at a music bar in Cleveland, Ohio.
"Foxy" is a swinging, blues tune. Crawford covers the bass line with the keyboards. Mann opens out front with a lively lead. Later, he steps back and lets Crawford take over. Throughout, Bandy stretches out on the kit.
Michel Legrand's "What Are You Doing for the Rest of Your Life" is played with a samba vibe. Mann scores on several high-speed phrases. Bandy mixes in some fill notes, giving the impression of an additional percussionist.
The trio turns in a favorable rendition of "Betcha By Golly Wow," one of three covers of soulful hits by The Stylistics. With Mann keeping true to the original melody, Crawford sizzles during the middle solo, aided by Bandy's toms. Mann returns with a freely expressive solo before the song reverts to the theme.
After a similar take on "People Make the World Go 'Round," the trio closes out The Stylistics sequence with a fast-paced turn on "Stop, Look, Listen to Your Heart." Bandy adds a vocal grind as he recites the story behind "Woman Please," another straightforward blues piece. The song is highlighted by its 3/4 shuffle beat.
Although Mann composed only two of the songs presented on It's All About a Groove, he and his sidemen don't lack for originality. The jazz/blues presentation of the covers—combined with the fact that several songs aren't typical remakes—keeps the session from seeming trite.
Track listing: Foxy; What Are You Doing for the Rest of Your Life; Betcha By Golly Wow; People Make the World Go 'Round; Stop, Look, Listen to Your Heart; Woman Please; Blues for Now; The Look of Love; Minor Steps; Easy Living; You and the Night and the Music.
Personnel: Ethan Mann: guitar; Chip Crawford: keyboards; Greg Bandy: drums.

Style: Blues

Woodrow Wilkins


It's All About A Groove 
Ethan Mann | Self Produced (2010)

 Personnel: Ethan Mann: guitar; Chip Crawford: keyboards; Greg Bandy: drums. 

Style: Straightahead/Mainstream

While plenty of jazz fans are schooled musicians, an even greater number don't have significant training—or any training, for that matter—in music. These people might not know chord progressions or specific rhythmic patterns, but they do know if music feels good. When songs are stripped to their bare essence, the groove is often what creates the groundwork for everything else and allows the music to take shape. Guitarist Ethan Mann clearly agrees with this idea and made it the central theme on It's All About A Groove, but he doesn't sacrifice all of the other elements that add up to great music. This eleven-song program touches on everything from standards to The Stylistics—the Philadelphia based vocal soul group that had some success in the '70s—and the band sounds like its having a blast working its way through all of it. Mann's "Foxy" opens the album, and drummer Greg Bandy's light, shuffling ride cymbal—constantly evolving and avoiding stale repetition—keeps things interesting. Mann's sound on his solo leans toward a blues-rock vein, while organist/keyboardist Chip Crawford's playing has a lighter feel. "What Are You Doing For The Rest Of Your Life" is delivered with a pseudo-samba groove, and Mann's single-note lines are lethal. Three songs associated with The Stylistics come next, with "Betcha By Golly Wow" arriving first, and the easy grooving "People Make The World Go 'Round" following. The final song of this aural triptych—"Stop, Look, Listen To Your Heart—is the most satisfying of the three and Mann's fondness for Wes Montgomery comes through in his treatment of the melody. Crawford, not to be outdone, mixes up choppy statements and single-note ideas during his equally impressive performance. Bandy's booming voice makes an appearance on "Woman Please," changing the group dynamic. A 12/8 blues feel is at the heart of this piece and, while the lyrics don't amount to much, Bandy's voice is a wonder to behold and brings a natural, raw intensity into the music. "Blues For Now" is built on a slippery swing feel from Bandy, and the drummer gets ample space to solo on this one. While his playing is a bit too busy and distracting on "The Look Of Love," his drumming perfectly meshes with his trio mates on "Minor Steps," a song based on John Coltrane's classic "Giant Steps." Mann's solo guitar take on "Easy Living" is a treat and shows off a different side to his playing, while "You And The Night And The Music" closes out the album and features some fun solo trading between all three musicians. In the end, It's All About A Groove amounts to more than just its name...but it certainly feels good too. Track listing: Foxy; What Are You Doing For The Rest Of Your Life; Betcha By Golly Wow; People Make The World Go 'Round; Stop, Look, Listen To Your Heart; Woman Please; Blues For Now; The Look Of Love; Minor Steps; Easy Living; You And The Night And The Music.




By Dan Bilowsky





Tuesday May 25, 2010

Ethan Mann IT'S ALL ABOUT A GROOVE (Petunia)

Truth in titular advertising definitely applies to this trio date. Groove and feel are paramount to guitarist Ethan Mann’s musical philosophy. Keyboardist Chip Crawford and drummer Greg Bandy are of a shared music-making consciousness. All three men have been gigging since their teens in a multitude of setting. Bandy had the distinction of working New York City clubs during the Seventies and good fortune to curry favor with profile band leaders like Pharoah Sanders and Gary Bartz. Mann and Crawford never hit it quite that big on their cabaret cards, but both have stayed busy over the decades as well. 

Mann designs the program as a reflection of a typical club set for the trio and the player’s formative Seventies-selves play palpable roles. Once again that titular mantra is at the forefront of their interplay and execution from the opening “Foxy” onward with blues and funk as recurring undercurrents. Popular song serves as another wellspring for the band songbook starting with Michel Legrand’s Latinized easy listening favorite “What are You Doing the Rest of Your Life.” Mann handles the leads with aplomb and Crawford lays down populous support with his instrument zeroed in on organ and Rhodes settings. Bandy’s often the glue, his rhythms tying each piece together without constraining his colleagues in their own contributions.

Mann offers mild surprises in a three-song shout out The Stylistics starting with “Betcha By Golly Wow”, outfitted with a pleasant if slightly schmaltzy lounge groove built on a rubbery electronic bass line from Crawford. “People Make the World Go Round” fares better with a harder rhythm and a stronger melody as the trio convincingly sets the studio calendar back to 1972. The piece also allows Bandy to breakdown his bonafides as a funky drummer through a string of killer break beats. Obligatory Coltrane comes out in Mann’s thin contrafact “Minor Steps” and there’s even room for a vocal by the guitarist on the near-parody talking blues number “Woman Please”. A pleasant enough session, this set is far from essential, but that’s also an appraisal these convivial players would no doubt agree on.








 Volume 33/Number 213 June 2, 2010 



PETUNIA ETHAN MANN/ It's All About a Groove:

The guitarist shows his organ trio side with a jumping date that shows as much Philly soul as it does originals. Fun, jumping date that is simply all about a groove and this crew is expert at striking a great one. Hot stuff.

CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher Copyright 2010 Midwest Record

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