Big and chunky, phat and phunky would describe the music on the newest CD Next by the groove based jazz organ quartet Soulive. Two of the more outstanding musical facets that are ubiquitous on this recording are the tightness of the ensemble and the omnipresence of a driving bass line groove. Coupled with the thick sounding harmonies played on organ, clean, precise drumming, and saxophone playing that fits “hand into glove” with the rest of the ensemble, Next is a clinic in soulful grooving jazz, and a worthy addition to the discography of great organ based jazz groups.
The level of musicianship of Soulive is extremely high as evidenced by impressive ensemble playing. Each instrument fits precisely with every other like the pieces of an aural jigsaw puzzle creating one unified sound mass. A predominating bass line underscores the tightness of the group. Improvised solos even take somewhat of a backseat in a mix that tends to continually balance the bass in forefront of the musical texture. The excitement of Soulive is exemplified in what sounds like cut from one of their live performances, “E.D. Hambone.” If there is a weakness on Next it is the cut “Joyful Girl” that features a vocal by Dave Matthews. Although it is understood that a touring relationship has existed between Soulive and Dave Matthews, on this CD, Matthews sounds out of his element, and his performance is not enhanced by a song that has a rather overly urbane sound and rather innocuous and trite sounding lyric.
For fans of other Blue Note artists such as Medeski, Martin and Wood, or other jazz groups that emphasize strong backbeats and soulful, funky grooves, Next will definitely be satisfying to the ear. The collaborative work of the members of Soulive coupled with their high level of musicianship have taken the jazz organ quartet to another plane of creative existence.
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