Lawrence Ku is into classic funk and so that’s what The Red Groove Project and Flow are full of it. Flow also has episodes of jazz, and latin music, usually delivered by the horns, and some times by Ku’s guitar solos. The tunes are designed with esthetics that recall the end of the 70s and the 80s. The times when disco was still very alive. “The adventures of Tom and Big Al” could perfectly be the opening theme for a 70s/80s’ tv show, you know, those police series. “Three doors, three keys” is a ballad with a classic sax solo and high pitch top of the mountain minute for the singer to exhibit her lungs and tonal precission. It also has a much more interesting bass line. “The Instigator” is a correct opening tune for a complete jazz band on a Saturday night gig, a great time to introduce well the amazing skills of Ku with his guitar.
Flow stays in the safe area that jazz guards for funk, it’s all classic style, it has some moments where it goes too close to the border with pop, like it’s almost going to fall, but then the bass and jazz bring it back to the classic zone. This fragile equilibrium makes me think that of course it is impossible to avoid the influence of pop music in our jazz scene, first because the local jazz scene has the best musicians that Chinese pop stars can find in China, so all or most of the guys playing in Flow, for example, have experienced the trip of playing flawless music with Cantopop singers. That and that this pop music, Chinese pop music specifically is very very very much into cliches. And the very own nature of cliches makes them very contagious. Then the thing is how to deal with them, do you like them or not, and how do you use them. This is a personal decission, and I think we decide depending on how aware are we of esthetics. But if you are too much into esthetics you could become a living cliché yourself. Still what we do about cliches is a personal thing, but in art this is a very important subject to discuss because they determine part of the shape of the message, so cliches will tell about the artist’s style. Art without cliches could be either amazing or very inescrutable, and too many cliches could result in headaches. The oposite side of cliches is creative innovation, how much of each in a piece of art could be decesive for its greatness. Personally I think we need more creative innovation in China, specially while we are still in a process of developing our musical identity, and in Flow I am missing more of this, I don’t mean I would like to see the The Red Groove Project playing experimental funk, but I’d like to hear their own individuality louder.
Flow is a funk album, not a punk album, it brings alive the feeling of being at JZ partying on a Saturday night, it’s smooth on its edges, with classy strings, and traditional pop vocals, solos are mostly conservative, the rhythyms are classic and the management of their transitions is what I find more 70s/80s style. Flow is like a very funky cat, with curls, no sun glasses, bellebottom pants, and a wide lapel jacket, sometimes by the beach, sometimes crossing the city.
My favorite themes are “Stylle” and “The adventures of Tom and Big Al” because of the singing of Ku’s guitar, and its diaologue with EJ Parker’s bass, they keep the groove right on the spot. The percussions and drums are dandy, and the horns party, as they do. I like the dream of ratpack playboys in a fun hang with gogo dancers passing by.
Flow features Chinese pop singers Shunza and Tia Ray, both of considerable fame in China’s Cantopop scene. Both very much influenced by western pop stars, and on the recent years also commonly on JZ Festival’s line up. The cats in the band are all part of the steady beatniks of JZ, all outstanding players.
Flow was mixed and mastered by Minjohn Lin. And all the music was composed and arranged by Lawrence Ku.