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Break Out

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Album Review

The jazz-soul-funk trio's first album away from Blue Note since its early indie days, and only studio release of fresh material since 2002, is another classy old-school-inspired concoction. Guest vocalists pepper the set as Ivan Neville, Corey Glover, Reggie Watts, and especially Chaka Khan serve up their soulful best on about half of the album's tracks, with the rest dedicated to the instrumental '60s and early-'70s-styled funk jams the band is known for. Except for a not terribly innovative but energetic — even frantic — cover of Hendrix's "Crosstown Traffic" with guest Robert Randolph, the disc boasts all original compositions. Most work well, but they sound like you've heard them before, maybe with a different title 30 years ago. "Freedom" in particular veers too closely to the Isley Brothers' "That Lady," blurring the line between inspiration and replication. Guitarist Eric Krasno's "Vapor" seems like it was grabbed from a John Scofield funk album and, for those old enough to remember, Chaka Khan's turn on "Back Again" can't help but be reminiscent of any number of Rufus tunes, right down to the double-tracked vocals. None of this is a deal breaker, though, because the bandmembers clearly have their hearts in the right place, shuffling through their musty albums like a deck of cards and landing on an ace more often than not. Those who come from the Crusaders era of jazz-funk will have no problem warming up to any of this, and when Ivan Neville kicks up his best Sly Stone on "Got Soul," it's nearly impossible to ignore the spirit — just shake your hips and go with the flow. They're not reinventing the wheel, but the bandmembers' refreshing refusal to pander to a hip-hop audience by hiring a guest MC is not just commendable, it's unique. About the only concession the band makes to contemporary electronics is adding a few drum loops and distorting Cochemea Gastelum's rubbery alto sax on "Glad ta Know Ya," but even that sounds retro in its own way. Despite its title, the album is no breakout for the threesome, but it reinforces Soulive's groovalishious talents and remains a stimulating listen for established fans.

Biography

Formed: 1999 in Buffalo, NY

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Brothers Alan and Neal Evans, on drums and Hammond B-3 organ, respectively, form two-thirds of the soul/groove trio Soulive. Rounding out the group is Eric Krasno on guitar. The band was formed in the late '90s when all three members were under 25. However, each already had a substantial background in the jam band scene. Alan and Neal are former members of Moon Boot Lover, and Alan also played with the Greyboy Allstars. Krasno founded the super-funky Lettuce, a wildly popular Boston-based band. ...
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Break Out, Soulive
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