Soulive’s Next Due Out March 12

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The sophomore Blue Note release for the band Soulive, Next, is set for a March 12 release. The group’s Blue Note debut Doin’ Something captured the group’s live energy and combined it with Fred Wesley’s signature horn arrangements; and with Next, the band has reinvented themselves.

Soulive is no longer an organ trio. In fact they’re not a trio at all. Alto saxophonist Sam Kininger, an old friend and collaborator is now a full time member of the band. He joins drummer Alan Evans, keyboardist Neal Evans and guitarist Eric Krasno in the new Soulive.

Next is a largely collaborative affair. Self produced by the band, it features appearances from artists as diverse as hip-hop trailblazers like Black Thought of The Roots and Talib Kweli, the angelic soul songstress Amel Larrieux, and new friend Dave Matthews.

This is Soulive’s first modern record. While the band’s organic live essence still exists, the sounds and compositions on Next are very much those of a band trying to create something new. Earlier comparisons to Jimmy Smith no longer apply. Now we hear the collective influences of four musicians. Angular funk meets modern R&B. Slow plaintive ballads meet banging hip-hop beats and rhymes. It may be soulful and jazzy, but it’s not soul jazz.

While Soulive’s previous two records “Doin’ Something” and their debut “Turn It Out” were a collection of songs culled directly from their live set, the songs on Next were written specifically for the studio. None of these compositions were performed live until after they had been recorded. This new approach lends the record its fresh quality. The band is discovering the tunes for the first time.

“We met Tariq (Black Thought) on the road where we played together at an awards show,” says Neal. “We had wanted to do a straight up hip-hop joint on the new album and when the opportunity presented itself and the timing was right we did it.”

While on the road last year Eric and Neal had written a song that needed a good vocalist. “When we were brainstorming on who we’d like to sing it we thought about Amel Larrieux. We all dug the stuff she’s done and loved her voice so we sent her the song.” The result is a beautiful, D’Angelo inspired ballad pairing Larrieux’s delicate vocal and lyrics with Soulive’s deft accompaniment.

The most interesting collaboration on Next is that of Soulive with Dave Matthews. When the band were offered the coveted opening slot on his US tour last year, Matthews immediately became a fan. He took to introducing them each night as “the greatest band in the world.” While some may see the two acts as a somewhat disparate pairing, Neal disagrees. “Human beings inherently feel the need to label stuff so that they can make sense of it. I understand why, but it creates boundaries. There’s such a large pallet of sounds, why not paint with all the colors?” The outcome is a unique interpretation of Ani DiFranco’s “Joyful Girl.” “Five guys playing an Ani DiFranco tune is kind of cool,” states Neal.



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May 2024
Stefon Harris
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