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Don Grolnick Group: The Complete London Concert (2014) Review

by January 16, 2015
The Complete London Concert: Don Grolnick Group

The Complete London Concert: Don Grolnick Group

Label: Fuzzy Records (USB) | Buy Now

Track List

First Set
1)    Intro Applause
2)    Heart Of Darkness
3)    Band Intro
4)    Or Come Fog
5)    Five Bars
6)    Spot That Man
7)    Don Alias Intro
8)    What Is This Thing Called Love

Second Set
1)    Catta
2)    Rainsville
3)    Water Babies
4)    The Cost Of Living
5)    One Bird, One Stone
6)    I Want To Be Happy


I've chosen this particular release to review for two reasons:
1.    It's a darn good set of music featuring a darn good set of musicians, and
2.    It's a unique use of alternate distribution media (a USB drive in this case)

For those of you who have never heard of keyboardist/composer/producer Don Grolnick, you have certainly heard his work. Grolnick was the foundation of many recordings from pop/rock stars like Carly Simon, James Taylor, Linda Ronstadt, and Steely Dan to jazz legends like David Sanborn, Gato Barbieri, The Brecker Brothers, and Steps.

The initial release of The London Concert (1995) only included the first set, as the tape of the second set had gone missing after the mastering process for the CD was completed. Almost 20 years later, a digital (DAT) backup copy was found, leading to this release of the second set. Unfortunately, that backup copy does not contain the final/encore tune I Want To Be Happy in its entirety. Sadly, we lost Don Grolnick to cancer shortly after completion of this tour, and have subsequently lost the additional great talents of Michael Brecker (sax) and Don Alias (percussion). This makes the inclusion of a short video interview with Don Grolnick and the Brecker Brothers recorded during the tour (including rehearsal footage) even more special. Those of you not familiar with Michael Brecker's trademark sound should consider this live set a good introduction.

Audio Quality

Audio quality is exceptional, especially for a live concert recording. The album really captures the ambiance of Queen Elizabeth Hall without losing that personal connection with the soloist. I can see why they made CD-quality WAV files available, as they are a definite improvement over the MP3 versions. The opener, Heart of Darkness, is one of my favorite tracks. There's nothing like a smooth swing groove. They took the standard What Is This Thing Called Love and turned the solo section into an absolute burner, with good solos all around. For you Latin lovers, Catta has a nice classic feel; plus I love hearing trombone solos over Latin grooves. Another favorite track is the smooth sounding Rainsville. Wayne Shorter's classic Water Babies has the best extended drum/percussion solo in the set, courtesy of the great Peter Erskine (drums) and Don Alias (percussion). The over one minute of applause at the end One Bird, One Stone demonstrates what a special night this was (PS: I love Grolnick's explanation of the song's title). The only tune I don't really like is the encore I Want To Be Happy, which wasn't captured in its entirety anyway. Of course, I tend to skip/delete the introduction tracks which are only present in the first set to keep the music moving.

Card Front & Back

Front and rear of the concert release, which is essentially a business card with a slot for the USB drive.


One listening session isn't enough to absorb the tremendous amount of historical musical significance in the discovery of this complete live recording. For those in possession of the original release (first set only), I highly recommend an upgrade to the full version, especially if you're a Latin music lover. While the first set is primarily straight-ahead/swing, the second set is basically all Latin. Note that the only distribution options for this recently discovered DAT recording are either an MP3 (compressed) download or WAV files (uncompressed) via USB drive for what would have been a two CD set (there are over two hours of music total). I applaud Peter Erskine's label for distributing the entire live performance on alternate media to enjoy in one contiguous listening session; examining the scans included above, you can see it's basically a “business card” containing a USB drive. It's unfortunate that Don Grolnick's output as a band leader ended with this tour, but those of you yearning for more can dig into his playing discography to find a large body of outstanding work.


  • Audio Quality: 5 / 5
  • Features (liner notes): 5 / 5
  • Overall: 5 / 5

Reference Equipment

  • Yamaha DSP-A1 Natural Sound A/V Amplifier (Stereo Mode)
  • Pioneer Elite CLD-99 Reference LD Player
  • Polk Monitor 10B Speakers (x2)



About the author:
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Stanton was born and raised in Kansas City, where he was exposed to the rich culture of jazz at a very young age. He's a drummer and an electrical engineer and loves to review jazz music for us.

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