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The Alan Evans Trio, nee Alan Evans' Playonbrother, were the first band to formally avail themselves of the resources of Applehead Studios for a live with studio audience session in Woodstock New York in 2013. Patterned to a great degree on Levon Helm's Midnight Rambles at his own barn, ultra contemporary facilities in a rustic setting, these events present a unique opportunity for musicians and fans alike to immerse themselves in the spontaneity of the moment even as the engineers-Michael Birnbaum, Kevin Salem and Chris Bittner-are capturing it all for posterity.
Drummer Evans, guitarist Danny Mayer and keyboardist Beau Sasser make the most of their opportunity from the start as the three burst from the proverbial starting gate at a furious pace on "They Call Me Velvet." Early band introductions preface the vocal interlude and more frenetic funk-rock on "If You Want My Love" where the eminently reasonable similarities surface to the drummer bandleader's Soulive forebears: it's an identical instrumental lineup, the crucial difference lying in the relative simplicity of the sound: the former doesn't stray from Hammond B3 organ while the latter, fully capable of patient and pointed soloing as on "The Lay Down," usually restricts himself more to rhythm work than the brilliant Eric Krasno.
Further comparison might be fatuous since the Evans Trio hasn't been collaborating together as long as Soulive (who began in 1999), but the passing spoken interludes, such as that introducing "Thor," bring to mind Krasno and Evans sibling keyboardist Neal in their Lettuce project. Alan Evans sings with as much gusto as he plays his kit, but his voice is nowhere as distinctive as his drum work, which marries rock with funk in a way that renders apt comparisons to Jimi Hendrix
' Band of Gypsies (and further illuminates references to the iconic guitarist via AE3's change in moniker to mirror the name of Evan's own studio).
The Alan Evans Trio shines at digging deep into grooves like that of "Have You seen Him," at 10:40 the longest track here and, given the group's streamlined approach, wisely placed in the tracklist. Subsequent cuts "The Lay Down" and "Crooooz" taper off in duration, while even shorter numbers as "Just Another Dream," maintain the pacing as this recording concludes.
Yet these live renditions of studio recordings reinforce the Evans Trio's aptitude for working with comparable skill in either setting. Woodstock Sessions Vol. 1 is obviously an ideal setting for all involved, including the audience, generally kept low in the mix, but acting as a subtle reminder of their presence and, by extension, the enticing ambiance of this unique situation.
Track Listing: They Call Me Velvet; If You Want My Love; Thor; Have You Seen Him; The Lay Down;
Crooooz; What Happens Off in the Woods; Who Dare Knock; Just Another Dream; Cosmic
Personnel: Alan Evans: drums, vocals; Beau Sasser: guitar; Danny Mayer: B3 organ.