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Soulive: Turn It Out

Douglas Payne By

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This Vermont-based organ trio has its vibe rooted deep in 1972. That's probably about the time when these three were born. But they have that bell-bottom shaking, platform-shoe tapping Grant Green groove thing down cold. Their name, which they manage to live up to quite well, may be a pun. But their act is the real thing. They're tight. And it feels real.

Guitarist Eric Krasno tends to dominate the proceedings. But his is a clean, clear sound derived from the soulful single-line strategies of Grant Green and George Benson. He's a sensational soloist who knows how to spice up a riff or expand on a melodic idea. He's even willing to get his fingers dirty exploring such retro gizmos as the wah wah pedal ("Unlce Junior," "So Live!") or Peter Frampton's favorite toy, the vocoder ("Jesus Children").

Matching Krasno wit for wit is organist Neal Evans, once a student of the late Jacky Byard. He jumps out of the Jimmy Smith bag, only hinting that he comes from a place of tougher music, the study of scales and harmonic theory. But he doesn't rest easily in one place too long. He, too, is a dramatic player who builds his ideas like a story. One minute he visits planet Patton, then drifts to yonder Young. When he gets mean, it's Bill Mason grinding like a bull through Rusty Bryant's Wildfire.

Still, these three - guided in no small part by the expert rhythm-ning of drummer Alan Evans - make for one heck of a tight rhythm section. That's why the groove never gets boring. It's no wonder they're such a popular live act. Their tunes are little more than tricky riffs and hardly very memorable. But what they can do to a groove is pure magic.

They also never coast on automatic pilot, like too many funk units do. In the set's opener, "Steppin'," they lay out a tick-tock Rueben Wilson boogaloo for Krasno to jam on, then shift gears most naturally to a slower Grant Green soul groove for Evan's organ explorations. "Doin' Something," starts suggesting Idris Muhammad's "Cold Sweat" before it launches into wilder territories that wouldn't be out of place in On The Corner. Sam Kininger's Maceo-meets-Rusty alto highlights the burning "Rudy's Way" and Allmans bassist Oteil Burbridge offers an appealing Benson-meets-Bullock scat on "So Live!"

Turn It Out 's best moments, though, come on the dark funk of Stevie Wonder's "Jesus Children" and the balls-out jam, "Uncle Junior," a sort of "Ain't It Funky Now" rhythm that lifts off from Neal Evans's Masonic preaching and Krasno's history lesson in soul-jazz guitar, from Green to Benson, Sparks to Ponder and Eric Gale in between.

If you haven't caught the Soulive vibe yet, it'll be hard to avoid during 2000. The trio is being prominently featured on Bump , John Scofield's upcoming follow-up to A Go Go, and has plans to tour extensively outside New York City and Boston (their main haunts). Check 'em out. Find out why things haven't been the same since 1972.

Tracks:Steppin'; Uncle Junior; Azucar; Rudy's Way; Jesus Children; Doin' Something; So Live!; Arruga de Agua; Turn It Out; Arruga.

Players:Alan Evans: drums; Eric Krasno: guitar; Neal Evans: Hammond B-3 organ; Sam Kininger: alto sax on "Rudy's Way;" Oteil Burbridge: bass on "So Live!"

Title: Turn It Out | Year Released: 2000 | Record Label: Velour Recordings


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