Blue Note Records
On its sophomore outing, Next (Blue Note 7243 5 35869 2 8V; 68:42), groovemeisters Soulive dip into the hip-hop pool while still pledging allegiance to soul-jazz. Guitarist Eric Krasno has still got his Grant Green-Wes Montgomery mojo working. Organist Neal Evans continues to layer on splashes of B-3 in the tradition of role models like Charles Earland, Jimmy McGriff and Jimmy Smith, and his brother, Alan Evans, is still kicking like the funky drummer he is. The difference on this follow-up to last year's Doin' Something is the presence of alto saxophonist Sam Kininger, who blends the irrepressibly funky spirit of Maceo Parker with the more exploratory excursions of Bennie Maupin or Eddie Harris in his electric phase. The strongest tracks here are "Flurries," "Kalen" and the frantic "Whatever It Is." Rapper Black Thought of the Roots makes a guest appearance on the standout hip-hop track "Clap!" and singer Amel Larrieux makes a soulful impression on the delicate ballad "I Don't Know Why." The record closes out with a remix of "Bridge to 'Bama" from Doin' Something by producer/DJ Hi-Tek and features rapper Talib Kweli. A collaboration with pop star Dave Matthews on a smooth, soulful rendition of Ani DiFranco's "Joyful Girl" may indeed help Soulive cross over to a new audience, but the rest of this funky mess is bound to appeal to the group's core following of jam-band funkateers who ate up Doin' Something.