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BooBoo Groove: Luke Moss Cultivates Jazzy, Funky Sound in N.H.

Leila Goldstein / NHPR
BooBoo Groove. Left to right: Nathaniel Grant, Curtis Arnett, Luke Moss, and Arnie Ashford.

If you close your eyes you wouldn't know it was a sleepy Sunday morning here in Salem at the back of "Coffee Coffee," an organic coffee house. Luke Moss squints, smiles and nods as he taps out a beat on his snare. He signals directions to his bandmates: a guitarist, a bassist, and a sax player.

Above him is a big, yellow sign reading Live Music.

(We highly recommend listening to this story.)

It's a sort of command this morning as the band jumps from original funk tunes to jazz standards.

He works the crowd even though there's only four or five people here.

"That might be too funky for a coffee shop. I don't know."

When Moss moved to New Hampshire from upstate New York ten years ago to be closer to his daughter, he says it was tough finding a jazz and funk music scene.

"It's not like New York. It's not like Detroit. It's not like Manhattan. It's not like Philly."

There weren't too many players and venues were mostly looking for Top 40 cover bands. People who played country, or rock 'n' roll. Moss needed jazz, funk players. So he trained his own. Here's Nathaniel Grant, the guitar player:

"I basically picked up a guitar and, you know, very shortly after I met Luke and he really taught me how to play guitar."

Curtis Arnett, the sax player, was drawn in by Moss playing at a gig.

"And it's kind of thing, I was just like walking by, recognizing pretty quick that they were all good players."

So he stopped to ask if he could play.

"The reason why he stopped he didn't mention, the reason why he stopped. Because, it was so funky, that he couldn't help it. He couldn't help it."

Even with Moss' conviction of the power of funk, traditional venues aren't always interested in booking the band. But Moss has found alternatives. They've played at flea markets, on the street, at restaurants ... even a Wegmans Supermarket.

"Have you ever been there? Oh, you have got to see that place."

He snagged today's unconventional venue.

"Really artsy looking place, you know, got pictures on the wall. People painted a Mona Lisa, and Picasso."

By simply walking in and asking the owner if they could play. The guitar player, Grant, calls Moss the master of in-person networking and the band is also a reflection of that, with a rotating cast of musicians. Sometimes there's a keyboard player, other times a horn section. The constant, though, is Mosse. 

"We are the Booboo Groove straight out of Manch Vegas, New Hampshire."

He's found his musical place in Manchester. And he's woven the city into the lyrics of his original songs.

"We call this one, 'Met you down on Brown Ave. Manchester, N.H.'"

Two kids dance to the music and a couple with to-go cup holders change their minds and sit down.

It's almost noon and the band's nearing the end of their set. But Moss and his BooBoo Groove are still playing strong. Bringing the funk ... wherever they go.

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