Jazzman lifts band members at his former high school

September 02, 2005|By TIFFANY ARNOLD


Jazzman Eugene Grove had an in-your-face stage presence.


Grove, 42, who goes by Euge Groove, stood in the aisle, leaned over and played his saxophone directly in the faces of a few audience members during a show at South Hagerstown High School auditorium Wednesday night.

They didn't seem to mind.

The South High graduate is a nationally recognized contemporary jazz artist and has played with Joe Cocker, Tina Turner, and Huey Lewis and The News. He was picked up by Warner Brothers in 1999, but is now signed with Narada Jazz, an affiliate of EMI. He lives in West Lake Village, Calif.


The mini-concert at South High was a quick detour from a months-long national tour, Grove said. Grove released his fourth album, "Just Feels Right," Tuesday. All the proceeds from the CDs sold after the show Wednesday will go to South High's Rebel Band.

"I know what it's like to want do something and not have the funds to do it," he said. "Here, I had so much support. They made it all worthwhile."

For his most recent album, Grove said he drew upon his experiences as a freshman at South High.

Chaka Khan, Bill Withers and George Benson formed the soundtrack to Grove's first year at South Hagerstown High School. When he wasn't listening to "the good stuff" on the radio, he was playing it on the saxophone.

"The year was 1976. That's where I got my inspiration from," he said. "Those records just sounded the best, the way they recorded and produced the songs. Everything was so positive then."

Around 70 students and fans came out to hear Grove play. During "Slam Dunk," a song from his debut album in 1999, he strolled the aisles as he played, chanting "Nod yo' head" between riffs.

Contemporary R&B and pop influences appeared in coasting melodies and laid-back rhythms. They also showed up in his appearance. His hair was long and surfer-boy blond. He wore frayed "distressed" denim jeans and a tailored yellow shirt.

The audience of mostly high school musicians connected with Grove, clapping and laughing when he called himself a "band geek."

"I thought it was really cool because now I know if I go into music I could turn out like that," said Erin Mandley, 16.

Mandley, a junior, sings and plays the bassoon and drums.

Band director Katherine Seman wasn't around when Grove attended South High, but she is a fan of his music. She said she asked Grove to visit the school because she heard he was a graduate.

"Here's someone who came from their school, who lived in their neighborhoods," she said. "His life is so parallel to theirs. He wasn't some huge prodigy. He was very much like they were."

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