Mosaic carves out a unique jazz-funk sound in the vein of Head Hunters while injecting subtle pop melodies, making the album as accessible as it is complex. Original member Dan Gerken (guitar/bass/vocals) has assembled a power house of a group with Chris Carballeira on keyboard/vocals and Dave Berger on drums. A fun mixture of richly dynamic songs gives Groovestick a few staple releases, as well as 10 tracks of dance-able tunes drawing influences from funk pioneers all over the board.
Right from the start, any funky human can tell that the album is going to be a pleasure to listen to. “Balloons” sets the scene with a laid back groove with a great hook and a theme of soulful guitar solos and organ majesty is conveyed immediately. Groovestick takes a handful of sticky riffs a step further than offering a single hook and elaborates on that by casting out a collection of ear worms within each song. They tastefully add in elements of prog rock by developing and layering on new ideas and hooks for the listener to latch on to. It is vital to be able to keep the song interesting to the audience in this style and genre, and Groovestick shows they definitely learned how to engage people with a song by playing live and getting that feedback. The key here for the band is that they were able to transfer the atmosphere of a live show onto an album. They do really well to keep the songs fun, and are able to showcase their jam-ability; no doubt a product of their intensive work on stage and in numerous musical projects.
The second and sixth tracks (“Mischief”, “Nola”) show the band foremost instrumentally, as they’re able to keep the vibe of the opening track going without needing any words. Groovestick takes a wordless tune and still emotes the feeling of each piece through their skillful improvising. There are a few instrumental tracks on the album overall, with one standout being “Crablegs.” Gerken’s bass lines match seamlessly with Carballeria’s left-hand work on the organ to great effect. One major point on the album that stands out is the way these two are able to sync so well together to hold a groove. Berger is able to lay out quick yet spacious drum beats to hold the groove down, giving each song a flash of jazzed taste. There is a lot of play with dynamic range as well, namely in “Scrumptious” where the band seamlessly breaks the song down to almost nothing before coming back into set the mood for the next song, “Inkblot.”
A highlight track on Mosaic is definitely “Inkblot.” It’s possible to write an entire review on this one song with how many dimensions the band is able to mesh together. From jazz, to funk, to even ska (!), this song covers so many bases while still being….a song! The band is able to navigate the line between these genres and fuse them together. As a whole, the album has a similar feeling to this song in that the transitions between each song gives the album a nice instrumental and dynamic arc. Switching between vocalized and instrumental pieces while maintaining a consistent theme and feel added a lot to the listening experience and gave a nod to the deep knowledge the band possesses in their musical experience.
All of the performances are very tight, with everything from rumbling and climbing bass solos, to ripping guitar leads and magnificently executed key-lines, with the drums never faltering in the groove foundation. This was a very fun listen! Definitely check out Groovestick’s release and go out to see them live if they come to town. It’s going to be interesting to hear some of these songs live with how much they make me want to dance in my seat.
Key Tracks: Inkblot, Crablegs, Mischief