“My friend was playing sax. I thought, ‘Well, we could hang out more if I played in the sax section.’ (It was) my only motive for picking the saxophone,” he said with a laugh.
Grove said he credits having good music teachers who encouraged him to pursue music.
“It was a killer music program from elementary all the way through high school,” he said. “There are fewer and fewer of those programs throughout the country.”
He said “it’s a shame to have these things cut out of the schools or diminished.”
Because for Grove, it’s personal.
“Clearly, without that education I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing today,” he said. “There’s no other way around it. I would have never gotten the experience. I would have never been as excited and passionate about music without all of the band interaction and my friends and the teacher and all the inspiration they gave. It’s disheartening to see a lot of programs cut.”
Grove said he started out on the alto saxophone, but he mainly plays tenor and soprano now.
“It’s the only voice I have,” he said on why he choose the saxophone. “I can’t sing. I can sing inside of my head but it doesn’t come out the way I want it to. With the saxophone I’ve been playing such a long time — I’ve been playing the saxophone for 40 years — it’s become such an extension of me to the point if I hear it or think it, it just comes out the other end of the horn.”
Grove knew he wanted to pursue music full time by the time he was in sixth grade.
“I thought I was going to be playing in the school band for the rest of my life,” he said. “I didn’t know what that meant.”
Grove went to earn a degree at the University of Miami School of Music.
It was there where he exposed to being a professional musician. Between his junior and senior year he interned at Disney World with a band.
“They’d have musicians come in each week and talk about the business of music,” he said. “Then it really kind of dawned on me to really make a choice here: Am I going to be an educator? Am I going to be a performer? I really had to decide to how to make a living.”
About that same time, Grove said he was “getting corrupted” by listening to musicians such as Junior Walker and David Sanborn, which lead him to pursue a rock ‘n’ roll route.
That lead him to be a popular sideman for such people as Joe Cocker, Tina Turner, Richard Marx, Huey Lewis and the News, Tower of Power and Eros Ramazzotti.
“I had that (sideman) gig down. I knew what that was all about. I enjoyed it so much. I loved playing with these guys and backing them up,” he said. “I figured out early on with them, when you get to a big stage and you’re in front of 15,000 or 1000,000 ... the singer just wants consistency and wants something rock-solid behind them because nuance just gets lost in those big stages. I learned to just strive to be consistent every night.”
For 20 years, Grove was a sideman.
“I was really lucky one door opened and lead to another,” he said. “I worked for great people.”
By the mid-1990s, Grove was itching to get out front and pursue his solo work.
“I wanted to spend more time at home and if I would (go solo) I could do that,” he said.
Today, he and his wife have been married for 25 years and have three children — ages 23, 22 and 16.
Grove called going solo a logical progression for his career.
“I learned how not to make a solo record about 10 times,” he said. “It was a matter of time. My maturity and writing and what I had to say, and what was happening with smooth jazz at the time and the record industry.”