CL Feature: Funk-jazz organ trio Soulive headlines Clearwater Jazz Holiday this Saturday (with complete weekend schedule)

The trio laid down the tracks over four days at Alan’s fully-equipped state-of-the-art Playonbrother Studios in Western Mass. “Come Together” was the easiest “because that’s a song we’ve been playing together for a couple years live,” Neal said. The rest were chosen based on how well they lent themselves to Soulive’s sound and instrumentation. “There were definitely a lot of songs that got whittled out because they just didn’t translate without the lyrics.”

Guitarist Eric Krasno deals out the licks and riffs with classy finesse, using his fluid finger skills to mimic the melodies and emotion of the vocals. Alan holds down the rhythms, strong and steady, and Neal picks up some of the melodic slack and fills out the low end bass parts when necessary on Hammond B3, bass keys and clavinet. Songs like "Eleanor Rigby” find Krasno handling the lyrical parts on guitar, and Neal filling in the string sections with both hands on keys; Alan’s relentless backbeat infuses “While My Guitar Gently Weeps" with a sense of urgency that’s fleshed out and given color via Krasno’s wah wah guitar licks and Neal’s soaring Hammond organ notes; and “Revolution” is transformed into an upbeat, hip-shaking retrofied funk number with all three musicians bringing an entirely new vibe to the song.

The three musicians formed Soulive in 1999 in Buffalo, NY, and over the next decade, they slowly and steadily built up a sustainable career, carving out a niche for themselves in the jazz jam circuit, collaborating with artists ranging from John Scofield to Chaka Khan, and nurturing a loyal following with constant touring, exposure via big festivals like Monterey Jazz Festival and Bonnaroo, and opening for the likes of Dave Matthews Band, The Roots, and even The Rolling Stones, which has brought Soulive on tour an impressive five times.

All the while, they’ve put out a steady stream of recordings, first independently, then with major label support, and then, in 2009, right around their 10-year anniversary, the trio went independent once again, this time on their own terms with their own fledgling indie record label, Royal Family Records. “It comes down to having control of our content and the timetable and management of our own careers and about the music we get out to people and how we get it out to people. And there’s really no better way than having your own label to do that.”


Soulive headlines the Clearwater Jazz Holiday this Sat., Oct. 16. The 31st Annual event is held Oct. 14-17 at Coachman Park, 301 Drew St., Clearwater. Admission is free and all ages are welcome. The complete schedule is as follows:


Jarred Armstrong (5- 6 p.m.), Little Feat (6:30-8 p.m.), and Dr John & The Lower 911 (8:30-10 p.m.)


The Organic Trio (5-6:30 p.m.), Kyle Wolverton (7-8:30 p.m.), and Norman Brown’s Storming Jazz with Brenda Russell & Jessy J (9-11 p.m.)


O Som Do Jazz & Helios Jazz Orchestra (2:30-4 p.m.), Sean Chambers & Friends (4:30-5:30 p.m.), Level 10 (6-7 p.m.), Tizer featuring Lao Tizer, Chieli Minucci & Karen Briggs (7:30-8:45 p.m.), *Soulive (9:15-10:45 p.m.), and FIREWORKS! (10:45 p.m.).


Ruth Eckerd Hall/Clearwater Jazz Holiday Youth Jazz Band feat. Eric Darius (2:30-3:30 p.m.), Mark Barrios (4:30-5:30 p.m.), Jonathan Fritzen (6-7:30 p.m.), and Eric Darius feat. Lalah Hathaway (8-10 p.m.)

The jazz tradition of re-interpreting the Beatles continues with Rubber Soulive, a new studio release by preeminent New York alt funk, soul and jazz trio Soulive that finds them putting their slinky groovin’ stamp on 11 songs produced by the Fab Four from 1965 to ’69. [Photo by Arthur Shim]

Guitarist Eric Krasno and brothers Alan and Neal Evans (on drums and keys, respectively) had toyed with the idea of recording some Beatles tunes for a while, and finally committed to doing it after performing an all-Beatles set on Halloween last year. Their decision conveniently coincided with the release of the Beatles’ entire re-mastered catalog, which they listened to on repeat even as they scoured the Beatles songbook and figured out what tracks to tackle. “We actually thought it was going to be a really easy thing to do and we’d end up with about 30 tunes and we’d cut and choose from there,” Neal Evans explained when I chatted with him by phone last week. “But basically, the songs that are on the album were the only ones that we recorded.”

“It was definitely a learning experience to really listen to the Beatles,” he continued. “It was the first time I ever critically listened to the songs, whether I was trying to figure out the production of what they were doing or how the songs were recorded.”

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