By Robert Goldberg | June 22, 2023
What happens when you combine the essence of improvisation, syncopated rhythmic accents, and a blend of funk, rock, and jam music into a jazz performance? The result is the high octane musical powerhouse Soulive, who unleashed a sonic assault on an elated Blue Note Jazz Club audience last week at the Blue Note Jazz Festival. Hailing from Woodstock, New York, the trio consists of guitarist Eric Krasno, drummer Alan Evans, and keyboardist Neal Evans, who have carved their distinctive niche in the music world through paying homage to the rich heritage of jazz and pushing the boundaries of musical exploration. Soulive’s ability to seamlessly combine multiple genres of music makes it easy to see why so many incredible artists have collaborated with them, including John Scofield, Otiel Burbridge, Dave Matthews, Ivan Neville and more. They bring the heat through an infectious beat.
Walking into the Blue Note, you could feel a buzz throughout the room in anticipation for Soulive’s first performance at the club – a long awaited honor that’s been overdue for the three-piece ensemble. The lights dimmed and the crowd roared as a ghost MC announced “Put your hands together for Soulive!” They dove right into “Steppin,” an original and jazzy jam composed of tight drum rhythms, blistering guitar solos, and harmonizing piano melodies. Next up, Eric asked the crowd to clap along as they played “Rudy’s Way,” a tune reminiscent of James Brown and Allman Brothers Band. The combo makes for a truly eargasmic slice of bluesy funk pie.
Warmed up from their unique, instrumental inferno, the collective transitioned to music from their album Rubber Soulive, which consists of Beatles cover songs altered to R&B and jazz grooves. “Eleanor Rigby” came first, evoking contemplative emotions through fast paced and upbeat drum rhythms, underlying organ chords, and raging guitar improvisations between the chorus and bridge of the song. Soulive then took us on a captivating journey through the auditory abyss of “I Want You (She’s So Heavy),” a hypnotic composition ending with a massive organ harmony which built up into the chorus. At this point, the crowd’s stank face was stuck permanently – somebody call a doctor!
After an assortment of tribute tracks, the trio returned to their roots with two very soulful originals and crowd favorites, “Third Stone,” followed by “Lenny.” The combination of tunes feels like riding down a long highway until you get to a destination of paradise and peace where you can lay your head down to rest as the music serenades the soul. The last two numbers the group played were the furious, funky jazz tracks “Cannon Ball,” which showed off Neal’s unbelievable piano prowess, and “Tuesday Night Squad.” Both jams felt nostalgic to an old school TV show opening sequence, as if the crowd were about to watch an Episode of “Hey Arnold!” Overall, Soulive brought down the house at the Blue Note. Check them out as they continue their festival tour playing at Blue Note Jazz Festival Napa 2023 next month.