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Funk - Released January 1, 2008 | Velour Records

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The second studio set from this sideman supergroup of sorts follows its debut by six years but maintains a similar approach. While the first album recorded by the eight-piece ensemble (that gets together only sporadically between other full time gigs) was funk-influenced, this is pure '70s styled retro funk. Think Earth, Wind & Fire, P-Funk, the Crusaders, Tower of Power, James Brown, Rufus with Chaka Khan, you get the idea. To further cement the old school feel, the band recorded with mics and tube compressors from the era. The result is nearly an hour of non-stop, predominantly instrumental, rump shaking jazz-funk fusion that, while obviously indebted to its predecessors, shimmers with a natural energetic groove of its own. These guys play off each other with enthusiasm and are clearly having a ball. All but two tunes are Lettuce compositions with drummer Adam Deitch (50 Cent, Talib Kweli, John Scofield) writing or co-writing eight selections. The three piece horn section gets all AWB on "Salute" and the band finds its Meters "Cissy Strut"-ing heart in "Speak E.Z." The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band's "Express Yourself" and Curtis Mayfield's "Move on Up" make for two representative and slightly left-of-center covers that fit perfectly with the album's electric boogie vibe, but the rest of the self-penned tracks are nearly as good. The group borrows liberally from its forerunners but does so with such integrity and respect it's impossible to criticize Lettuce for ripping off the licks, lines and riffs of the '70s greats in their record collections. Rather, this is party music made to liven up any shindig and might also encourage some youngsters to search out the sources behind Lettuce's funky blasts. That seems to be at least part of the band's intent. The rest is just to have fun paying tribute to music that inspires them and hope the listener's feelings are mutual. © Hal Horowitz /TiVo

Soul - Released January 1, 2007 | Velour Records

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Soul - Released January 1, 2007 | Velour Records

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Soul - Released January 1, 2005 | Velour Records

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Soul - Released January 1, 2002 | Velour Records

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Soulive is a tightly knit unit, a feature that is evident in their sound. Alan Evans plays the drums here, his brother Neal Evans plays the Hammond B-3 organ, and colleague Eric Krasno delivers the electric guitar. Velour Records, the New York City start-up, has a bright future ahead of itself if it continues to support projects like Turn It Out, Soulive's debut full-length release. There are two things that should make Soulive an enduring and popular group: they look great and they sound great. Paying homage to the jazz and funk groups who helped to influence and form their musical character, Soulive appears on stage in slick, dark suits and with cool demeanors, assuring the audience that they're about to give a show to remember. The band executes their songs with a cohesion often heard in other forms of jazz like bebop, but with a confidence and fervor for the funk that allows their music to groove and swing. The Hammond B-3 sound that Neal Evans provides will make fans of Jimmy Smith, Ruben Wilson, and John Patton smile, while Eric Krasno's style will delight fans of George Benson and Grant Green. All of the songs on this album are originals, except for their interpretation of Stevie Wonder's "Jesus Children," given a Soulive flair in arrangement. The remainder of the songs were either written by all three of the group's members or individually. Four of the songs featured on Turn It Out were recorded at live performances and sound pretty good except for one aspect that's lacking in each of the songs: a strong drum presence. Hip-hop is another unquestionable influence on Soulive that the listener would be able to perceive if the drums were more prominent in the mixes of these songs. Despite this, each of these songs has solid appeal. Soulive explores their tender capacities on cuts like "Azucar" (written by Neal Evans) and "Arruga de Agua" (written by Eric Krasno). The unique rhythm accents in "Arruga" coupled with the very lyrical and dexterous playing of Eric Krasno on guitar, make this song one of the album's standouts. It is joined by the likes of "So Live" and the title track, whose organ solos hit the target through Neal Evans' use of the pedal tone, creating suspense and excitement. Also of note are guest appearances by Oteil Burbridge on bass for "So Live" and tenor sax man Sam Kininger on "Rudy's Way." Soulive masterfully embraces a retro-modern thing that makes you wish other artists would refer to their musical predecessors for inspiration. Alan Evans plays the drum kit with all the force infused in his body by hip-hop culture; Eric Krasno speaks volumes with his electric guitar; Neal Evans reminds you of what an organ virtuoso sounds like; and together, they are Soulive, so live! © Qa'id Jacobs /TiVo

Funk - Released January 1, 2002 | Velour Records

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Lettuce is the group that began the careers of several noted "jam band" musicians: Eric Krasno of Soulive, Adam Deitch of the John Scofield Band, Adam Smirnoff of the Squad, Jeff Bhayshk of Kudu, Ryan Zoidis of Rustic Overtones, and Eric Coomes, now a Los Angeles-based producer. Outta Here is essentially a reunion project featuring these players and several special guests, including trombonist Fred Wesley, Soulive organist Neal Evans, and John Scofield himself. Toni Smith also contributes an alluring R&B vocal on "Twisted." Although the album is overly reliant on funk clichés, there are some captivating moments, mostly toward the end of the disc. The groove on "Nyack" is something else -- so good that a bonus live version closes out the disc, giving the listener a good sense of what the band does on stage (hint: it cooks). Keep the disc playing and you'll hear a 45-second snippet of horns and drums getting down as well. © David R. Adler /TiVo

Soul - Released January 1, 2002 | Velour Records

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Jimmy Smith, Jimmy McGriff, Johnny Hammond, and John Patton have all been at the core of some of the legendary organ groups in the history of jazz, and it's time for the history books to make room for another group of truly talented musicians focused around that wonderful, warm, and expressive instrument. Soulive is considered an organ trio with Neal Evans playing the Hammond B-3 (usually through, the miraculous and luscious Leslie Speaker Cabinet), his brother Alan Evans on the drums, and compatriot Eric Krasno on the electric guitar. Get Down is Soulive's introductory EP effort and was recorded in March of 1999 at the Soulive Studios in New York City. The group happens to be based out of Vermont, but they've traveled and played so extensively around the country that they hesitate to identify themselves with any one particular geographic location. There's lots to say about Soulive, a lot of which is evident upon hearing the five selections featured on Get Down Not content with simply invoking musical themes similar to those created in part by the originators mentioned above, Soulive can take you back to the heyday of jazz when it was all about "the sound, man, dig the sound." These cats can really play, and they've achieved a balance amongst themselves that makes it a stretch to call this an organ trio -- they're just a hot trio. And while it is easy to say that they produce a sound similar to that of a Jimmy Smith or a John Patton, these three feature a modern sound rooted in hip-hop that none of the aforementioned legends could logistically claim. With the combination of their musical talent and their unique and modern style, this is a strong album that whets your appetite for more Soulive. © Qa'id Jacobs /TiVo

Funk - Released January 1, 2001 | Velour Records

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While the fervor of the acid jazz craze has long since chilled, a few bands pursue the funky jazz muse that powered it. New York City-based Topaz is one of those who continue to delve into the genre's intricacies, with passion and nimble chops. On their third album, The Zone, tenor sax player Topaz and his bandmates turn their sights toward the more soulful areas of the genre, mixing funky grooves with smooth arrangements. The Zone reaches such heights of cool that you almost believe you're sitting in a red velvet-draped lounge, highball in hand, cooing sweet nothings into the ear of your prospective mate. Though the band is named after Topaz, he generally lets his bandmates steer the music. Ethan White's electric piano drives a percussive melody on "Minha Mente" and provides a solid lead in almost all the songs; Mark "Tewar" Tewarson's guitar noodles front "Walkabout," which has a darker vibe than most of the album's upbeat tunes. Trombone player Squantch really impresses with his range of hot and cool emotion on "I Can See It in You," laying down some nasty blues tones. But the highest praise for the band is that the deft layering of each instrument in the arrangements makes it difficult to determine who is leading on any song. Each voice sounds integral to the whole groove machine. The lone jarring note on the record comes from the vocals: Topaz opts for highly repetitive lyrics that are often chanted more than sung. While you get used to them after a while, they get in the way a bit too much. Topaz has plenty of beautiful instrumental voices here; they didn't need to add another. © Michael Gowan /TiVo