A jazz/hip-hop/folk/groove band that defies easy labels, Soulive has established a wide following among fans of dance, jazz, and rock music. Inspired by jazz and soul music of the 1960s and 1970s, the group also incorporates the modern sensibilities of hip-hop for a unique blend. Primarily a trio (brothers Alan and Neal Evans and Eric Krasno), the group has recorded and performed with many other musicians, including saxophonist Sam Kininger. The group signed with the prestigious Blue Note label in 2000 and has produced an average of an album a year since then, establishing itself as a popular improvisational “soul groove” band that appeals to old and young alike.
The group came together in March of 1999. Brothers Alan and Neal Evans lived at the time near Woodstock, New York, where they frequently jammed with other musicians. They invited guitarist Eric Krasno to join them, and in their very first session together recorded what became Soulive’s debut album, the self-produced Get Down. They enjoyed working together so much they decided to hit the road on tour. At first the band opened for other, more established acts such as John Schofield, Maceo Parker, Los Lobos, Derek Trucks, and Robben Ford. Once they had a following Soulive began to tour on their own, releasing its next album, Turn It Out, on the Orchard label in 2000. Turn It Out attracted the attention of major record label Blue Note, which signed the band to a contract in 2000. The group released its first album on Blue Note, Doin’ Something, in 2001, followed by Next in 2002, and Soulive in 2003.
Drummer Alan Evans began playing as soon as he could hold drumsticks, helped by his father, an amateur drummer who made his living as a high school gym teacher. Evans’s father loved music of all types, and it was through his music collection that Alan and his brother Neal were exposed to jazz greats John Coltrane and Miles Davis, as well as classical music and opera. Growing up in Buffalo, New York, Alan first played drums in a marching band. As adults the Evans brothers settled near Woodstock, New York, which had a thriving music scene. After playing in different groups, Alan came up with the idea for Soulive as a “live soul groove” group.
Younger brother and keyboardist Neal Evans received formal music training at the Manhattan School of Music in New York City. Initially trained as a drummer, he later gravitated to the Hammond B-3 organ, lending its unique sound to Soulive’s performances.
Guitarist Eric Krasno, too, received music training at an early age. When he was 14 years old, he attended the Berklee music school summer session in Boston. While there, he fell in love with funk, which he flavored with jazz, soul, blues, and rock. He founded a popular Boston area band, Lettuce, for which he played before joining Soulive.
Saxophonist Sam Kininger, a session musician on most of Soulive’s recordings, was made an official part of the band in May of 2001. Born in New York City, he was introduced to the saxophone when he began lessons at the age of ten. By the time he was 16 years old, he was playing saxophone with the New York Symphony Orchestra. He went on to attend the Berkelee music school in Boston, where he met Eric Krasno, and through him, the Evans brothers.
In February of 2001 Soulive launched a well-received tour of Japan, playing more than a dozen concerts in sold-out venues; they were also featured on the country’s largest television network, NHK. The summer of 2001 saw Soulive on a European tour, with gigs in France, England, Spain, Switzerland, Italy, Belgium, and Holland. In the fall of that year, Soulive recorded its second album with Blue Note, Next, a release that showcased their talents in a hip-hop and R&B, and featured guest artists Black Thought, Talib Kweli, Amel Larrieux, and Dave Matthews.
While Soulive has developed a successful recording career, “Live is, for us, definitely the way to go,” Krasno told Richard Harrington in the Washington Post. The synergy between the audience and performers, combined with the group’s improvisational focus, make the group’s performance style unique. The band’s members consistently resist being labeled, Krasno explained to Harrington, because the band’s music “could be called anything, so we leave that up to other people. It’s definitely groove-based. We don’t swing, we’re not a swing-jazz group at all. There’s always a backbeat to what we’re doing.”
By 2003 the band was opening for such high-profile acts as the Dave Matthews Band and the Rolling
Members include Alan Evans (born c. 1975 in Buffalo, NY), drums; Neal Evans (born c. 1977 in Buffalo, NY), keyboards; Sam Kininger (born in New York, NY), saxophone; Eric Krasno (born c. 1977 in Florida), guitar.
Group formed in Woodstock, NY, 1999; released self-produced debut, Get Down, 1999; released Turn It Out on Orchard, 2000; signed with the Blue Note label, 2000; released Doin’ Something, 2001, and Next, 2002; released first live album, Soulive, 2003.
Addresses: Management—Velour Music and Soulive Management, 28 Warren St., 2nd FI., New York, NY 10007. Website—Soulive Official Website: http://www.soulive.com.
Stones, which prized the group for its crowd-pleasing, energizing jam sessions—just the thing to warm up an audience for the main attraction at major concert venues.
With the self-titled Soulive, released in 2003 on Blue Note, the band returned to its roots as a simple combo, moving way from the multiple guest-artist presences that marked their previous albums. With Soulive the band was exclusively a trio (the Evans brothers and Krasno) for the first time on a recording. The album was also the band’s first live album.
For future recordings, the band planned to use a new studio in New York city to achieve the highly produced sounds common to hip-hop and R&B, unlike jazz, which has traditionally been recorded without strong production values. The band also planned to maintain its focus on making crowd-pleasing, danceable music. As Neal Evans summed it up to Lynell George in the Los Angeles Times, “I like to make music—music that a lot of people want to listen to.” And, as Krasno explained to David Jakubiak in the Chicago Sun-Times, the only “people who don’t like us are the jazz purists and the rock purists. But the people who can get beyond those boundaries can dig what we’re doing.”
Get Down, Soulive, 1999.
Turn It Out, Orchard, 2000.
Doin’ something, Blue Note, 2001.
Next, Blue Note, 2002.
Soulive, Blue Note, 2003.
Boston Herald, April 27, 2003, p. 55.
Chicago Sun-Times, April 18, 2003, p. 4.
Los Angeles Times, April 27, 2003, p. 47.
Washington Post, May 9, 2003, p. T6.
“Soulive,” All Music Guide,http://www.allmusic.com (June 26, 2003).
Soulive Official Website, http://www.soulive.com (June 21, 2003).
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