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Spark: Soulive and Karl Denson

Krasno, Denson, Neal Evans

A bit of a change of pace this time. Friday night I saw the spectacular funk collective Soulive with featured guest/collaborator wind player extroardinaire Karl Denson. They played in honor of their recent release, ‘Spark‘, which in turn is in honor of guitarist Melvin Sparks, who apparently had a hand in creating acid jazz. They had it at a new venue for me, the City Winery, which makes this first time I’ve seen Soulive in a venue where most everyone was seated and not up and dancing. Which may actually be a good thing. Last time I saw them, I didn’t stretch properly ahead of time and pulled something awful in my back from all the grooving I did. I have a gallery of pictures, at least those that came out, here. Quick notes on the show after the break.

Soulive, comprised of Eric Krasno on guitar, Alan Evans on drums and his brother Neal Evans on Hammond, bass keys and clavinet, easily ranks as one of my favorite acts to see. With Karl Denson, a saxophone and flute player that may be best known for his association with Lenny Kravtiz back in the day, they are probably the four funkiest people alive today. Soulive does it all, the spectacular, utterly danceable funk; crazy, virtuosic improvised solos: all is on display here. Neal Evans takes up both the bass and organ parts, playing the bass lines with his left hand on the bass keys. His left hand work alone would be incredible to see. He could just drop the organ altogether and he would still provide some of the best bass around.

The new album, from what I gather from last night (disclosure, I haven’t actually heard the album itself, just the songs as they played them live), has less in the way of the truly bombastic funk as previous outings. Instead, there is a lot more atmospheric stuff, filled with effects laden guitar and organ work. Over this, Denson lays some great horn work, particularly on flute, which seems to be on special display here. The set also had some of the classic Soulive that we all already know and love and I was overjoyed when they came back to play one of my personal favorites, ‘Tuesday Night Squad’, as an encore.

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