May 2001


Soulive loves to flip the switch of preconceived notions. If you listen to their infectious Blue Note debut Doin’ Something, the funky grooves and skin-tight hip-hop rhythms will probably make you think that they’re another jam band wearing tie-dyed T-shirts, sandals and beads. Instead, the trio dresses like they’ve just got off on New York’s R Train after a long workday on Wall Street. In fact, they don’t really see themselves as part of the much heralded, and much fabricated, jam-band scene. “A lot of what we do is about the compositional aspect,” asserts guitarist Eric Krasno. “We just don’t go outer-space and just play for ourselves. We want the crowd to feel what we’re doing.”

Andrew Macnaughtan


Formed two years ago in Boston’s fertile music scene, Soulive exudes the raw intimacy of a live show on record, and the emotional TKO-punch of ’70s R&B. With Alan Evans’ good-foot drumming and brother Neal Evans’ backyard church organ squawks and buttery bass lines percolating underneath Krasno’s sometimes chicken-scratch, sometimes deep-blue guitar licks, the trio traces bohemian hip-hop back to the glory days of The 3 Sounds and Young-Holt Unlimited.

On the neck-snapping “Cannonball,” which features some lickety-split horn arrangements by Fred Wesley as well as some astounding guitar and organ work from Krasno and Neal, respectively, Soulive gives a thumping shout-out to Cannonball Adderley. They follow that up with another head-nodding tone poem, “Shaheed,” for DJ Ali Shaheed Muhammad, formerly of the seminal hip-hop group A Tribe Called Quest. “We used some of the chords that Ali always used,” explains Krasno. “He used to use cool chord changes with A Tribe Called Quest, where a lot of other hip-hop music at that time was very simple in the harmonic sense.”

“I always thought that Ali was a huge innovator in hip-hop, who’s really influenced by jazz” asserts Neil Evans about the genius of Ali. “I think, we just kind of flipped it back with our tribute: fusing hip-hop with our harmonic sense of it.”

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