Family Groove Company
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Family Groove Company

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Band Rock Jazz

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March 25, 2006

You may feel that something has been lacking in your musical endeavors lately, but after one listen, you will be satisfied with this band's stylings. You may have yet to be introduced to their music, but when you are, you will be blown away by their sheer talent. You may have yet to hear their name, but you will soon know who they are. I'm talking about Family Groove Company (FGC), and I'm telling you... Go out and see this band.

Dreamed up at the Musical Institute in Hollywood, California and brought to realization in Chicago, Illinois, FGC is a brilliant quartet made up of Jordan Wilkow (lead vocals, Rhodes, organ), Adam Lewis (guitar), Janis Wallin (bass, vocals), and Mattias Blanck (drums, vocals). If I had to describe this band's sound in one word, that word would be "clean." The music is pure, intricate, and extremely well thought out.

Although Family Groove Company's sound is easily summed up in the word clean, their style of music is a little harder to describe. It's definitely jazzy. It's funk and groove without a doubt. A little bluesy, there's no question about that. There's a gospel feel to it, and let us not forget the soul and rock & roll elements. Their style is all over the place, in an organized way, but what do you call a sound as diverse as this? FGC says, "It's groove-informed jazz rock," and that is a damn good description. As with all great improvisational composition, there is give and take amongst all of the musicians in FGC, and according to Janis, that is one aspect that the band truly focuses on. "We try to do that a great deal. You know, make sure the guitar part isn't stepping on the bass part and make sure everything's interlocking." Adam adds, "It's about leaving space and room for one another to play."

I had the true pleasure of witnessing this melding of sound firsthand at Wilbert's in Cleveland, Ohio on March, 9th. A red velvet curtain lined the back wall of the stage, and small candles adorned every table. With the lights dimmed low and the candles flickering, Wilbert's took on an air of an old 1920's jazz bar. I felt that if I listened hard enough, I could almost hear Billie Holiday singing in her sultry voice; however, I was quickly pulled back into reality because today's modern influences were all around. Leftover Mardi Gras decorations hung from the ceiling, and the Grateful Dead was playing in the background. This venue, a place that has seen the likes of Derek Tucks and Taj Mahal, provided a perfect outlet for Family Groove Company's creativity to roam free.

The first song of the night, "Remember Sue," started off with an old-school funk beat. Jordan's breathy falsetto played an interesting protagonist against the definitive thumping bass that's associated with groove rock, and it was in this song that the first glimpse of the "space and room for one another" idea came to fruition. There were no instances of stepping on toes. All of the instruments, even throughout the solos, were easily detectable. Usually, all a listener gets is one stand-out instrument (whichever one happens to be wailing away at the time) and a slight trickle of far away resonance from the other pieces, but not here. Family Groove Company was well aware of one another on stage, and they did a beautiful job of playing as a cohesive unit.

Demonstrating the true uniqueness of their sound, FGC moved from style to style in their song choices. "The Money Shuffle" was overtly bluesy in the beginning and then quickly switched to a fast-paced, lullaby tone. However, once the sound settled comfortably into its new genre, it abruptly switched back again to its blues-based beginnings. "Rumba," with its distinctive Latin flare, was another superlative example of this band's ability to instantly shift gears into an entirely new realm of sound. Mattias's timing was impeccable, and his addition of the hollow sound-block added to the beachy feel. In "Bird 'N' Diz" and a cover of Miles Davis's "All Blues," the band's inspirations from the roots of jazz were easily detectable. Both songs had a cool breeze feel, and both contained that unmistakable light jazz tap on the top of the high-hat. Listening to all of these songs, I realized how truly nostalgic this band was and how deep their love of music truly ran.

A cover of "Get Outta My Life" was, once again, bluesy at its core, but when the song really got cranking, there was no way that it could be dubbed as the blues. There were too many other elements. Adam, whose strumming style and basic body position reminded me of Widespread Panic's John Bell, produced some truly captivating guitar solos that added a little southern rock to the equation. The funk portion of the tune made it nearly impossible to refrain from bobbing one's head, and the jazz riffs on Jordan's keys created some well-placed dissonance in the song. Jams were also thrown into the mix, but as with the rest of the songs, there were no overpowering voices. Mattias's - JamBase.com


The quartet is a microcosm for what a band must do to sound memorable: play as one. FGC made playing together sound and look as simple as it's said. The group tastefully unleashed high energy funk, rock and soul, driving the surrounding crowd at the Camping Stage to kick up huge dust clouds. - jambands.com


Family Groove Company doesn't play their instruments - they are their instruments . . . They're the most talented least recognized band you're not listening to. - The Fairfield Mirror


Discography

Live in Chicago, GFF Music 2008
The Charmer, GFF Music 2006
Reachin', GFF Music 2002

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Bio

Family Groove Company is a four piece band from Chicago that is turning heads and catching ears with a sound that is uncannily fresh, and live performances that simply envelop audiences in the fun, excitement and passion that the band radiates from the stage. Growing audiences everywhere FGC plays attest to the impact the band is beginning to make, as they bring the excitement of their live performances to ever growing venues, in more and more cities across the country. Appearances at most of the Midwest's major music festivals (Summer Camp, 10,000 Lakes, Summerfest) have helped along the way, headlining appearances at other festivals (Farmapalooza, Feel Good) point to the great things to come, and the over 25,000 live CDs that have been distributed all over the country speak for themselves. Family Groove Company is a band that music fans should not miss.

FGC integrates the groove sensibility developed by funk/jazz crossover artists like Herbie Hancock and Medeski, Martin, and Wood, with thoughtful, tight song writing that takes cues from the likes of Steely Dan and the Beatles. The result? An infectious, fresh sound the band calls "groove informed jazz/rock". With the release of their second studio album, The Charmer, in April 2006, Family Groove Company has delivered on this sonic vision with uncommon clarity and excitement. Jazz harmonic ideas encounter thick grooves, and improvisation negotiates tight song writing, as each track brings shape and contour to the band's sound. A fierce attentiveness to composition compliments FGC's passion for improvisation, creating a sound that captivates audiences ranging from the most casual music fan to the most critical musician.

Based out of Chicago since October 2002, Family Groove Company averages over 100 performances a year, reaching major markets in the Northeast, South, Midwest, and as far west as the Rockies. However, FGC actually traces its earliest beginnings to Los Angeles, CA. In January 2001, guitarist Adam Lewis and keyboardist Jordan Wilkow met bassist Janis Wallin and drummer Mattias Blanck while studying music at the Musicians Institute in Hollywood. The chemistry between the four musicians was felt instantly, and it wasn't long before they recorded their first demo and began performing throughout Southern California. A tour of the entire West coast followed shortly thereafter, and in spring 2002, the band released their 10-track debut album, Reachin'. Extremely proud of their first studio effort, Reachin' reflects FGC's commitment to conscientious song craft, and the band's determination to offer material of compositional interest along with their solo/improv ideas.

With the number of markets available to the band limited by the vast expanse of the West, in the fall of 2002, FGC made the big decision to relocate to Chicago. Since then, the band has pursued an aggressive touring schedule that has included tremendous headlining performances, significant "opening band" exposure opportunities, and high profile appearances at many festivals all over the country. Family Groove Company also enjoys the support of a nationwide street team that relentlessly spreads the word about the band at concerts, on the web, and through CD trading. Janis, Jordan, Adam, and Mattias all remain in passionate pursuit of the cultivation and refinement of FGC's sound, and are extremely excited about what's in store for the band in the coming years.

Band Members