The Live In Soulive

MUSIC

On stage and in the studio - performing in two completely different worlds

November 03, 2005|By RASHOD D. OLLISON | RASHOD D. OLLISON,SUN POP MUSIC CRITIC

Much of the energy comes from the crowd. So when Soulive locks a groove on stage, there's no telling where the music will go. The trio's melodic improvisation is sharper, more adventurous. Funk and blues rhythms pulsate. The people are up, grooving and swaying. The band - guitarist Eric Krasno and the Evans brothers, keyboardist Neal and drummer Alan - push the music more, playing hard and loud.

But in the studio, the guys have to work from a different dimension.

"It's almost impossible to take the live show to the studio," says Soulive spokesman Alan Evans, who's calling from his home outside Boston. The group plays Washington's 9:30 Club on Saturday night. "It's all the experiences you go through while touring that you bring to the stage. You're just living. In the studio, you're more focused."

On the jam band's new album, Break Out, the guys don't try to re-create their concerts as they did on past releases. The effect was at times antiseptic and forced, the songs stretching out longer than they should have. On Break Out, "We wanted to explore a different part of our sound," the New York native says. And that part is decidedly funkier. The jazz gloss of their previous Blue Note releases is all but gone. The new CD is Soulive's debut for the independent Concord label.

"We split [from Blue Note] after the last album [2003's Soulive]," says the 30-year-old drummer. "Things are challenging over there with the whole Norah Jones thing. It was time to be out. We can't knock Blue Note, but we never saw ourselves as a jazz group."

Soulive's groove-based, hard-hitting, no-nonsense style ripples with elements of hip-hop, hard rock and Sly Stone-influenced funk with jazzy improvisation here and there. With the coffeehouse "jazz" now being pushed at Blue Note, perhaps it was time for Soulive to break out, so to speak, and delve into grittier material.

On the new album, "We wanted to bring all the different influences on one record," Evans says. "We spent our time trying to figure out how to make the horns work, to make it sound like a complete record. We did a good job, I think."

Break Out is more R&B-based, featuring guest vocals by Ivan Neville ("Got Soul" and "Take It Easy"), Reggie Watts ("Hooked" and "What Can You Do"), Robert Randolph ("Crosstown") and Chaka Khan ("Back Again"). The results are often solid, never spectacular. The record isn't a dud - far from it. Break Out is danceable and charged in spots. But the funk rhythms feel a bit generic in the latter half of the 15-cut album.

"We wanted to make something different from the live show," Evans says. "You can get burned out in the studio and really put a magnifying glass on stuff. And you're changing and changing, and the vibe is different. You put a lot of pressure on yourself in the studio."

But on stage before an enthusiastic crowd, the guys of Soulive always come into their element, taking the music to another level.

"We play completely different live," Evans says. "Live is easier - less worries, less gray hair."

See Soulive at the 9:30 Club, 815 V St. N.W. in Washington, 9 p.m. Saturday night. Tickets are $15. For more information, visit 930.com.

rashod.ollison@baltsun.com

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