Through viral pandemics, world moral crises and music business madness, Mykeljon Winckel’s soul-pop-jazz collective GroovExpress keeps right on chuggin’ along, morphing and shape-shifting with the times.
In the Summer of 2020, that means a scaled down version featuring more vocals and less members as Winckel takes to his state-of-the-art home studio to record most of the tracks for GroovExpress’ 4th and latest effort… alone. Entitled Get Down & Funk (E Type Records), the 10-song feel-good lark is 9 vocals and 1 instrumental of mostly love songs – and one powerful message for a harmony starved planet.
Get Down & Funk is the follow-up to GroovExpress’ Amsterdaam CD which took the music world by surprise topping American music bible Billboard magazine’s Contemporary Jazz Chart, leaping from #9 to #1 for the week of September 15, 2019. Winckel could not have been more pleased or surprised by the wide-open arms welcome his music received last year. “It was wonderful news to see a life-long dream come to reality,” he stated upon receiving the news.
Now GroovExpress returns with a set of songs that should stoke the fires of passion and romance for the rest of this restless year. It’s loaded with sunny vibes, flirtatious messages plus lots of great and varied guitar solos. The first single/title track “Get Down and Funk” is the perfect soundtrack for shaking your blues by shaking your groove thing! “Heal Me” is a mid-tempo love song kissed with midnight persuasion chord changes. The stutter step funk of “My World’s on Fire” and the sweet surrender of “You’ve Set Me Free” are both vivid recollections of lust and love at first sight infatuations. Meanwhile, “Irresistible You” is air-lifted on a breezy summer swing that builds to an especially spectacular guitar solo as the strategically withheld drums kick in mid-way. “It’s Your Day” has an easy rollin’ perkily percussive Doobie Brothers feel, the bluesy “Got Me Goin’” recalls the earthy southern grooves of Atlanta Rhythm Section and the dreamy funk of “Love is Crazy” brings to mind the beach combing feel of vintage Pablo Cruise. And then there’s “Cookies and Love”, the CD’s one chill instrumental that moves from a smooth cruisin’ feel into an eruption of blazing chocolate fudge guitar lava.
That leaves the lyrical standout “Say a Prayer”, a tender cry for mercy on the world that resonates with both references to metamorphic historical milestones of the past and the madness of the immediate present. This gentle anthem reminds us all of the string of struggle events people have and will continue to triumphantly survive.
“People are pushed by fear / Rights removed by the ones that don’t care / Where’s it heading / Where’s the love and understanding / Where’s our Utopia?”
It cannot be overstated that Mykeljon Winckel composed, arranged and produced all 10 songs on Get Down and Funk, sang all the lead and background vocals (with no Autotune or post-production mix-fixin’) plus did all the studio engineer tracking, mixing and mastering. Mykeljon also played all the guitar tracks on the album, using vintage pedals, valve amps and FX to pull off guitar sounds in a modern way reminiscent of what legendary Dennis Coffey & The Detroit Guitar Band (“Scorpio”) did with multiple ax-slingers in the `70s. Mykeljon is joined by bass guitarist Bruce Kerr for 8 songs, Miriam Haslip who handles bass duties on “My World’s On Fire” and “Cookies and Love”, and drummer/percussionist Isaac Sanchez (a longtime GroovExpress presence) who lends his able hands to “Love is Crazy”.
“I really wanted to give our fans a new sound for this album, stripped back to groove – vocals with a solid bassline, and a palette of guitar sounds,” Mykeljon reveals. “There are no keyboards, organ or piano, and no sax or brass – a real break away sound from the last albums. Get Down and Funk is a feel-good vocal album with one instrumental: a great follow-up for our #1 radio hit, ‘Geraldine’.”
GroovExpress is a contemporary instrumental ensemble conceived in 2010 and led by New Zealand-born guitarist/ composer/ arranger/ producer Mykeljon Winckel. The band exists as a vibrant continuum of the pop, rock and soul-inflected contemporary jazz bands that laid down the pioneering train tracks – from the stellar American West Coast based L.A. Express to London’s soulful organ-based Oblivion Express. GroovExpress boasts an international appeal with good reason. Their leader, Mykeljon (“MJ” for short), has called New Zealand, Australia and America home, retaining connections and friendships everywhere he goes. MJ and his cohorts were as influenced by annual jazz festivals as they were Casey Kasem’s weekly radio show “American Top 40”. A fusion of the two was an inevitable reality – where Steely Dan and Chicago meet the CTI crossover jazz productions of Creed Taylor. GroovExpress’ first two projects, the inaugural studio session Ukrainian Girl (2014) and the harmonica-laced Live at GVR [Glenbrook Vintage Railway] (2016) paved the way for the more autobiographical Amsterdaam (2019).
Today on Get Down and Funk, with the music industry ever-changing, GroovExpress has taken an affirmative step to move and groove with the times but ever with the essence of the best that soul, jazz and pop had to offer in the golden era of the `70s. Get Down & Funk promises to be the remedy for all that ails thee for 2020… and beyond.
Get Down & Funk promises to be the remedy for all that ails thee for 2020… and beyond.