Grooveship: the funk goes on at the Mill

BY DAN WATSON | MARCH 5, 2009 7:19 AM

Seeing such bands as the Meters, Sly and the Family Stone, and Earth, Wind, and Fire performing together could be enough to make funk lovers scream like teenage girls at a Jonas Brothers concert.

While this roster of famous 1970s funk bands is extremely unlikely — considering most no longer exist — local band Grooveship will perform the former groups’ groovy tunes at the Mill, 120 E. Burlington St.

“We are just some guys who share an interests in funk and jazz,” said Saul Lubaroff, Grooveship’s saxophonist. “We are all varying ages and have different backgrounds, but we love to play music based on the groove sound.”

The group dates to 1993, when Grooveship bassist Marcus Perkins wanted to recapture popular radio hits from two decades earlier. After numerous stages and members, the current lineup finally formed in 2007. The band’s members now range in age from 23 to 45.

In 1993, some of the group’s current members were in elementary school, others had just had kids, and a few were busy trying to establish themselves in other fields. From 1993 until the current group formed, Perkins experimented and tinkered with the sound that eventually became Grooveship. He also taught and played in Minneapolis with famed blues singers Ivan Wallace and Willie Murphy.

Lubaroff stayed in Iowa City, formed the Saul Lubaroff Quartet in 1997, and made two CDs with the band. The younger members of Grooveship — Seth May on keyboards, James Edel on guitar, and Brian Cooper on drums, who are all in their 20s — were still refining their personal musical tastes.

In 2005, Lubaroff and Perkins held auditions in Lubaroff’s living room, adding May and Edel to the group. Cooper joined the band in 2007, completing the quintet.

The new members of Grooveship added an element of rock and roll to the previously funky jazz sound of the band.

“Those kids were brought up playing different stuff from me and Marcus,” Lubaroff said. “But the harder sound they bring really complements the original stuff.”

In the past, Grooveship’s set lists were confined to popular funk or jazz acts of the time, including Curtis Mayfield, Steely Dan, and the Meters. With its new rock and roll edge, the band now plays some early Jimi Hendrix, Parliament-Funkadelic, and other p-funk acts.

Grooveship doesn’t play a lot of shows each year because the band members are involved in other musical projects, and many teach music privately or at schools. The members typically practice around twice each month in May’s living room.

Lubaroff said the band hopes to play more shows this summer because the members enjoy playing outside and for a variety of audience members.

“We get people to come who probably enjoyed the music we played when they were growing up,” he said. “But we also get younger people who come to dance. If [the audience members] aren’t dancing, something is wrong with them.”

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