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Doin' Something (2001)

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Soulive

On paper -- and on-stage -- a grooving jazz trio with a guitarist, drummer, and Hammond organist who hammers bass notes with his feet and left hand sounds like a great idea. Indeed, Soulive (keyboardist Neal Evans, guitarist Eric Krasno, and drummer Alan Evans) is one of the fledgling rising stars on the jam band circuit, covering great tunes like Stevie Wonder's "Jesus Children of America," the Isley Brothers' "It's Your Thing," and War's "The World Is a Ghetto." But great live bands have been trying to figure out the formula to translate their concert performances into the recording studio for decades, and Soulive's 2001 CD, Doin' Something, comes up short. The trio employs guests musicians à la another jazz-meets-funk trio, Medeski, Martin & Wood, but early tracks like "Hurry Up...and Wait," "Evidence," and "One in Seven" have an un-funky sameness. Funk trombone legend Fred Wesley ensures that the title track, "Bridge o 'Bama," and "Joe Sample" fare better, but vocalist Stephanie McKay's inclusion on eight of the 11 cuts seems like a stab at commercial smooth jazz. The Evans brothers and Krasno are all talented players, with collective influences including Herbie Hancock, Elvin Jones, and Grant Green. Yet all come across as trying to play it safe on Doin' Something, in stark contrast to some of their unbridled live sets. Krasno is the primary composer, yet should take a page out of the songbook of another of his influences, John Scofield. About halfway into Doin' Something, you know exactly what to expect -- something Scofield has become a legend by avoiding. ~ Bill Meredith