Eric Valentine has been a sought after session drummer for many of the best artists in the game. 2018 is the year where Valentine will step out from behind the drums to showcase his all-around musicianship skills. His release, Velvet Groove, drops on February 14th – Valentine’s Day – and the grooves on the album will be sure to please!
I mean with a name like Velvet Groove, it HAS to be smooth, right?
By the way, the guest musicians listed on the album’s liner notes will read like a who’s who in the smooth jazz genre. Valentine plays the keys and drums throughout the album.
Review – Eric Valentine & Velvet Groove
The album kicks off with Back To The Groove. It is a nice mid-tempo jam, and Keith McKelley takes the lead here with his stellar sax play. Adam Hawley and Brian Simpson guest on the track. McKelley also co-wrote the track with Valentine.
Up next is E. Love (Everlasting Love). Once you hear that bassline, you know this is a funky track! This is song that I would love to hear “live,” as the production here definitely captures that live feel. I would like to hear this ensemble in a concert hall.
Velvet Groove is next, and once again the sax takes the lead. By the way, Richard Elliot is blowing that horn. Need I say more? Ok, then – Rick Braun is on the trumpet. Braun and Elliot go back and forth and I will say that this is a surefire hit!
Check it out and you will understand what I am talking about:
B. Valentine, Eric’s wife provides the lead vocal for Back In The Day. It does give you a sense of nostalgia as you listen to the groove. Kirk Whalum is on the sax here, and Wayne Linsey & Tim Carmon do a great job on the piano and organ, respectively.
Mr. Z is up next, and because Hans Zermuehlen co-wrote the track, I will take a wild guess and say that the track is named after the keyboardist. Hey – When you play piano line that, you can definitely name the song after yourself!
The slow jam on the album is That Guy. With a twist, a rhyme is performed instead of the traditional vocal. I like it, and along with guest appearances by Elan Trotman and Adam Hawley, it is a shame that the track is only 2:39. C’mon man! I need about five minutes of this.
Mi Sol is another track that is a little too short. Coming in at 2:39, guitarist Kay-Ta Matsuno gives a stirring performance. It actually makes me ashamed to admit that I had never heard of him before this.
Tis So Sweet (for Wayman Tisdale) is a nice tribute to the late bass player. It features the bass (of course), and it is a funk song that Wayman would surely enjoy. Gerald Albright also guests on the track.
Joy Inside My Tears is the lone remake in the set. The Stevie Wonder song is capably performed by Andre’ DePriest. As far as Stevie Wonder remakes go, this is an interesting choice. It was not one of Wonder’s biggest hits, and I respect them for tackling one of Stevie’s “other” songs.
Sixth Sense is the last full-length song, and it is more of a jam session. It actually has the feel of a George Duke track. There is a stellar flute performance by Jamal Brown to add some variety to the mix.
Eric Valentine is an artist that you have heard as a session player on albums from other artists. I would not be surprised if this album exposes him to a wider audience. He has a lot of talent, and the arsenal is in full effect on Velvet Groove.