There are no surprises on Soulive guitarist Eric Krasno's first solo album, but that's a good thing. Even with the familiar names involved in a project that's resulted in Reminisce, the music is fresh and wholly contemporary.
The album was produced by Krasno, and features mostly his own material. Soulive drummer Alan Evans recorded and mixed, while his brother Neal appears on keyboards. Still, there's no apparent loss of objectivity: this is not a retreading of Soulive's music and, while there are obviously some similarities to itas well as Krasno's other project Lettuce (most obviously in the use of horns as during "Roll Out")the finished project is more along the lines of vintage jazz-rock fusion, albeit with a decidedly funky feel.
Yet unlike much of what passed for that hybrid music during its heyday, tracks like "76" are naturally earthy, from the tight syncopation of Adam Deitch's drumming to the quirky but mellifluous synthesizer sounds. The snappy inclusion of The Beatles "Get Back" is an absolute revelation, not so much because of Krasno's guitar playingit's as precise as always in rendering and elaborating upon the main melody linebut in the way the collaborators fashion its organic arrangement to include punchy horns and classic Hammond B3.
Recorded over an extended period of time, the diversity of Reminisce does not undermine its cohesiveness; notwithstanding its influences, it's inventive on its own terms. For instance, "Be Alright" may recall Stevie Wonder; more than just the sound of Nigel Hall's vocal, there's not a note wasted anywhere on the cut. Hall can be histrionic on stage, but when he sings on this album, he's as focused as all of the musicians.
On the cover of Jimi Hendrix's "Manic Depression," Krasno, Hall and company wisely don't try to copy the original version of the late guitarist, but simply bring out the R&B elements (Philly soul as well as Sly Stone) hidden below its psychedelic surface. Here, Krasno's ripping guitar illustrates why he's not averse to featuring his partners at various points and, whenever he steps forward, the power and nuance of his playing is captivating. Still, it's not just the magic of the studio that allows saxophonist Ryan Zoidis to turn himself into a complete horn section on "Tilt," it's also the unabashed gusto of his playing. And Deitch's drumming throughout is an absolute wonder, which prompts the question: "How can a man dig into a groove so deeply?"
The title, subtitled "End of the Movie," conjures an ethereal mood that suits the rolling of credits on a moving piece of cinema. But it also suggests yet another opportunity of which Krasno may avail himself in the future. If the ten tracks that precede this one don't open his future wide enough.
Roll Out; 76; Get Back; Be Alright; Enhorabuena; Tilt; Manic
Depression; Song for Dilla; Up and Out; Reminisce (End of the Movie).
Eric Krasno: guitar, bass, background vocals; Neal Evans: organ; Nigel
Hall: vocals, bass, Moog, keyboards; Adam Deitch: drums, percussion,
Wurlitzer; Alan Evans: drums; Stu Brooks: bass; Louis Cato: bass,
trombone, tambourine; Ryan Zoidis: saxophones.
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