Brighton Festival 2019
Jazz funk trio Groove Baby claim to stand at the midpoint between children’s entertainment and “regular” adult concerts. It’s a difficult line to tread.
Musically, this is no child’s play. All three musicians are thoroughly skilled and utterly committed to their groove. There’s something fantastically universal and accessible about this music, and from the very first time we’re invited to stand up and dance, we just can’t help ourselves. I see the joy of release in some of the parents’ faces, who may not have strutted their stuff to any music they actually dig since their little’uns first popped. My own daughter, some five months shy of the minimum recommended age, is, I am proud to say, the first person in the room to start dancing.
The songs are almost exclusively instrumentals, which surprises me, since this is a gig with a clear theme: the theme of space. And what a theme! What a Universe of possibilities. What a mine of information for young people whose brains are eager to explore the unknown, who in many cases know far more about black holes, the Big Bang and exoplanets than do their parents. Aside from a jazzy cover of the theme from Dr Who, and a few sci-fi bleeps from the keyboards, the topic of space is confined almost exclusively to the between-song talking. And what do we get? Well, to be honest I’m not entirely sure, because the vocal mic is mixed too low, but it involves some space explorers and some robots, and there’s something to do with “astro-snot”. The closest we get to anything approaching science communication is a repeated mantra along the lines of, “Some things in space are very very old, and some things in space are very very bright.” Don’t expect either your children or yourself to walk away with any actual new knowledge.
The one moment where the audience really begin to engage with what’s going on, and it really smacks of a piece of entertainment for young people, is the one and only song that has lyrics. It’s a simple shout-out-a-number-and-we’ll-perform-a-simple-action-that-many-times type song. The older of the young audience members absolutely love this, but I’m not really sure the band do. They have something of the air of a rock band sick of being asked to play their one hit.
They ultimately strike me as a trio who would kinda prefer to play late-night jazz clubs, but have decided they may enjoy a greater degree of success by carving out a unique niche on the baby-friendly daytime gig circuit. And hey, why not. The music’s fantastic, and young and old were grooving like crazy. Personally, although I do enjoy my jazz funk almost as much as my 2-year-old does, I’m a 41-year-old who’s reeeeally into space. And this show didn’t quite scratch that itch for me.