With a background in blues and soft rock and a deep appreciation for the urban smooth jazz vibe, guitarist Ellis White (now in Florida, originally from Maine) sings through his instrument in spectacular style in his latest EP, “Keeping It Real.” The song is an instant transport to easy beats wrapped up in a warm melodic atmosphere. His band is aptly named Catch the Groove. Songs like “When I See Your Smile” (strolling through feel-good times) and the all-enveloping “Bolero De Funk” (wide, expansive and danceable) place him firmly in the positive groove category. NEWS! He has ALSO been submitted for a GRAMMY nomination for 2023!
What’s the first memory you have of jazz?
When I first met my wife, she was an established smooth jazz fan, and I started going to festivals and got hooked. Started playing music from the genre live in 2010.
What did your formal education in music look like? What was the most important takeaway from your early training?
I am not professionally trained in the sense of a music degree program. However, being mostly self-taught, I also studied under many great guitarists/musicians over the years including jazz phenom Dr. John Shaffer.
Who are you inspired by in guitar and jazz in general?
My guitar inspirations span a few different genres and include Eric Clapton, Santana, Larry Carlton and jazz greats George Benson and Lee Ritenour.
How would you characterize your own particular sound as a composer, guitarist and band?
As a composer, I tend to blend multiple genres not in the smooth jazz mix including rock, blues, R&B and Latin. As a guitarist, I like to bring a little edge to the sound and again blend genre stylings. As a band I always make sure that I have a strong horn and percussion presence to really give the band an extra punch on stage.
When you write music, do you start with a vibe/rhythm, a melody, or something else?
New music most always starts with a vibe/theme and I develop an overall guitar groove from that, then define the melody and expound and build on the song until it’s finished.
When did you start Catch the Groove and how did you choose your band members?
Catch The Groove was formed in 2010. Band members were selected from local advertising, interviews and auditions and I was lucky to have found excellent musicians with like minds that stayed with me for many years. Unfortunately, COVID took its toll and between relocating for livelihood and early retirements, most members moved on. As such, I made a decision to continue as Ellis White, solo artist.
What’s new in the jazz scene in FL?
The jazz scene in Florida is most prominent in the southern parts of the state, primarily Melbourne, Miami and Tampa.
Talk about your new EP, how long was it in the making, and what do you like most about it?
My new single, “Keeping It Real,” took about a year to complete from the initial concept through to release date. It was necessary to pull the new single off with a shoestring budget and with the help and vision of producer Trammell Starks, the song took on a life of its own. Because I had to stay real regarding the production costs, the name of the song, “Keeping It Real,” was born.
What changes do you see in the industry over the last two years—say since the pandemic—and where are most of your gigs popping up from?
The genre has always been tough to break into as there is such an established base of longtime household names. COVID resulted in many festivals and venues closing their doors, thereby limiting the number of performance options. However, things are returning to normal and new venues are popping up around the country. Many talent buyers are looking at double- or triple-bill performances these days as opposed to single acts. In addition, digital and streaming is far outweighing the physical CD.
The new single is doing well despite the inability to engage the services of a major radio promoter. The song has been #1 in the UK for several weeks and is on a few various airplay charts in the US.
For more information, visit https://catchthegroovemusic.com/music.
Photos courtesy of and with permission of the artist.
© 2022 Debbie Burke
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